In the midst of rearranging and securing the site I accidentally removed the link for people to add comments, so if something’s raised an eyebrow, and you haven’t been able to comment, that would be my fault.
The Leave a comment link is back and working again, and I promise to never clean house again. At least not till fall.
“I almost decided to work in childcare,” she said, “but then I decided I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut if I saw someone, I mean a parent, doing something wrong.” I watched her take a few more snips, and I was fairly confident that I was watching her doing something right with my hair. I decided it was better not to argue with a woman with a pair of scissor in her hand, but inwardly, I smiled.
This young woman had meandered to the subject while talking about her child – about six from what I could gather, but it wasn’t just the scissors that kept my mouth shut when she expounded on her theories on chid rearing. To be sure, I have plenty of my own, and I didn’t agree with all of hers. But, with one child with moving into the teenage years and another child whose body needs to follow his spirit into the stratosphere on a regular basis, there’s only one belief I firmly hold. It’s the idea that, with a few extreme exceptions, there’s no wrong way to parent, and that there is an infinite number of right ways to get a kid from cradle to college. Ultimately, I think those right ways are just different strategies, and often, it’s the infinitely unique personalities of the kids that determine which ones we use.
My twelve-year-old, Thing1, was always our easy child – even before we had a Thing2. He had a few weeks of constant screaming while we got the hang of breastfeeding, and I’ve had to carry him out of a restaurant here and there, but he’s always been a serious (read, quiet) kid. Thing2 is not quite so quiet. My social butterfly and a wriggling bundle of Prozac, his never-ending supply of energy creates different challenges. But the tables are turning.
Thing1 is approaching adolescence. His brain is achieving independence. His discovery that his parents are mortal and even fallible results in increasingly frequent challenges of our judgement and authority. I know this is a good and natural thing. I know they’re supposed to start thinking for themselves, but navigating this latest phase of his life and our parenthood has made me realize that we’ll never be experts at this job. We’ll still be in training when Thing2 hits this phase, posing a completely different battery of challenges, and that’s just fine with me.
I’ve always thought the best jobs aren’t necessarily the ones that pay the most but that offer the most challenges and that teach the most. Watching our kids grow, testing us and forcing us to evolve, I know that, not only will we never be experts, but I doubt I’d ever be able to tell another mother, who loves her child as much as I love mine but in a different way, that her parenting style is wrong.
The reality is that the hairdresser and I each want the best future for our children. We may take different paths to get them there, and we’ll certainly take away different memories and lessons from our journeys, but ultimately love will guide both of us. And that’s all good.
Do you think there’s too much criticizing of mothers in our popular culture these days?
I’m in the middle of my latest favorite guilty pleasure. It’s Monday. The kids are in school. I have the day off, and I’m hanging at Bob’s Diner, indulging in a veggie burrito and listening to Queen on the jukebox as I write. There’s no champagne or pate on the menu, and I’m not likely to blow through 17 rolls of film recording it, but my Monday mini-vacations are fast becoming great escapes.
Once upon a time and for a few years, the Big Guy and I were DINKs (double-income-no-kids), and we loved every minute of it. We ate out. We went to movies – at an actual movie theatre. We took our time wandering through museums, and we watched rated R videos before nine o’ clock. It was one long date.
We knew kids were in our future, and, while we looked forward to that time, we had enough friends with school age kids to know we didn’t want to take our freedom for granted. Eventually, we got tired of just enjoying other people’s kids and decided it was time to have one of our own. Before we embarked on that journey, however, we decided to take one to Europe as a last hurrah with just the two of us.
So for two weeks, we skipped around Spain and prowled the streets of Paris. Letting serendipity steer us, we eschewed schedules. Spain and Paris were already sultry in April. We consumed art in the mornings and tapas and sangria in the afternoons. We wandered gardens and sampled chocolate concoctions with our afternoon tea. It was an escape filled romance with just a bit of hedonism, fortifying our marriage with fun before a third person came into our family.
Fast-forward fourteen years, and our future is here and full. We’ve added two the family roster, and there are no waking moments when one of us isn’t busy playing chef, referee, chauffeur or tutor. Reality is everything we hoped for when we fell in love with the idea of being parents. It’s also very much what we anticipated, and, while the memory of sun and sangria still makes me smile, sipping a soda, uninterrupted by email and household eruptions is the ultimate great escape.
In my quest to make my windowless office less disconnected with the world on the other side of its walls, I’ve feng-shuied the shelves, and power-positioned the desk and acclimated myself to working in a room without windows. I’ve explored other ideas too.
The aforementioned mirror threatened to eat the entire tiny decorating budget, and, aiming for a flexible solution (I’m a creature of change), I decided to install either a bulletin or magnet board so I could tack up my dog-eared sketches and family photos. Thinking of the bare feet that frequent the mom-cave, I opted for a magnet board, hoping a lost magnet would do less harm than a dropped pushpin. But the devil, as they say, is in the details.
I found a board on sale at the big box. That purchase and a can of spray paint kept the project comfortably under budget. Painting the board to match the trim in my office, I dropped a few hanging hints on the Big Guy. I also bought a few cheap packs of magnets that looked like colorful neutered pushpins. I figured they’d be easy to find, and I was right. Thing2 found them right away.
The board was still leaning against a shelf when the kids came home from school the next day. Twelve-year-old Thing1 and I dove into homework drama right away. Behind us, Thing2 quietly danced around the room. My antennae were out of focus because normally, that kind of silence means trouble. The movement eventually ceased, and Thing2 curled up on the easy chair with the dog, waiting for a break in the action. Thing1 finally left for his desk, and Thing2 popped out of the chair.
“I’ve got a game for you, Mommy,” he said. “Let’s play Hide-and-Seek.”
I noticed an empty magnet package on the shelf behind me. Thing2 began flitting around the room, showing me all the clever places he had stuck the magnets, and I decided to play along. A few magnets were stuck to lamps. I found a couple stuck to hinges. By the time we had found seven of the 10 hidden, however, Thing2 was seeking in earnest, having forgotten a few of his more clever hiding places.
We moved books and papers and boxes. Then my heart stopped. At the back of my pull-down desk, near the hole the Big Guy drilled for my power cords and lying between my iPad and my computer was one of the clear, colorful plastic magnets. Illuminated by the tiny bit of light coming through the hole, the tiny green piece of computer Kryptonite had rolled dangerously close to my backup hard drive. I grabbed it and then carefully lifted everything up to make sure no other ‘surprises’ lurked.
From behind the desk I heard Thing2 cheer. “I found the other two, Mom!” I breathed a sigh of relief and then laughed as I s at back down. We had a chat about the things that kill computers and asking before we hide things that belong to other people, and Thing2 dutifully arranged the magnets on the board where they belong.
Once upon a time, I would have stewed for hours after the near-death of my digital life, trying to foresee and forestall every other potential mishap. But Thing2 isn’t a mishap. He’s an integral part of our plan. And as much as we plan for and around him, the bubbling cauldron of creativity in his brain has taught both of us that not everything in that can be controlled. That can be terrifying, but it can also be a good thing. It makes otherwise mundane moments memorable in a way we might not appreciate if we weren’t forced to change our plans once in a while.
The board is still on the floor leaning against the shelf in my office. The magnets have been artfully rearranged at least 3 times. The installation hasn’t progressed exactly as I’d planned, but the computer is alive, and nobody’s had a tack in their foot. I’d call it a qualified success, and that’s definitely good enough.
I can predict the weather once a year with near 100% certainty. The last Saturday in April will almost certainly be sunny and cold. I know this because this is the day Little League begins in our town, and it would not be the official start of the game season if eager young T-ballers weren’t being watched by smiling parents bundled up in coats and sweatshirts. There is one thing about this year’s opening day, however, that I failed to predict.
Most weekdays I get up at 5AM to write or to work while it’s quiet. Last night, however, I turned off the alarm and decided to let the sun, instead of the gong wake me. But the official first day of baseball season (as far as Arlington, VT is concerned), is a lot like Christmas, and I found out when a different son – my six-year-old, Thing2 – fully dressed in jeans and a black button-down shirt and tie crept to the side of my bed and, gently patting my face with his hand to let me know that it was time to go.
Knowing that it wasn’t an emergency requiring us to ‘go’, I lazily opened one eye and noticed that the sky wasn’t entirely dark. I turned my head to check the clock on the other side of the snoring Big Guy and, deciding that, at six a.m. I had bought an extra hour of sleep, decided to get up.
“You still have a few hours till we have to be there, Buddy,” I said quietly as I headed to the bathroom. Thing2 was too excited to let me have a morning to pee alone, and followed me in. “But I’m glad you’re dressed warmly. Do you think that tie is going to be comfortable under the new team T-shirt?”
Thing2’s thought for a moment. Then his mouth popped open, but before he could reveal his solution he had scurried back to the bunk room at the end of the hall. I could hear the sound of toys being excavated from a corner and Thing1 grumbling that it was too early for this. By the time I sat down at my desk with my morning caffeine, Thing2 had found and implemented the solution.
Breathless, Thing2 came racing into the study, still wearing the shirt and tie. Over it, he had donned his fake superhero muscles and another T-shirt. I checked the clock again. It was six thirty, we were on outfit number two, and Thing2’s superhero alter ego SuperDude had already started to emerge.
“Do you love it?” he asked.
I smiled, but I didn’t say anything. In an hour and a half we’ll need to leave the house with him warm and wearing clothing that won’t leave a permanent indent on his skin if it gets hit with a baseball. But even super heros evolve, and a lot can happen in that hour and a half.