Turn, Turn, Turn

The college freshmen walked toward the student union to check in. She was excitedly focused on what was in front of her when she heard her name called from behind. It was her mother. “I didn’t get to hug you good bye.” The freshmen was startled, she gave the obligatory hug and continued on her way. The mother returned to her car at the curb, and she and the father drove away.

This morning on my walk my neighborhood was full of moms and dads taking first day of school pictures of kids. The children smiled at the camera, depending on their age, with big excited grins or embarrassed “can we get this over with” grimaces. There were no pictures at my house for the first time in 20 years.

This morning I ran into my daughter’s ,now retired, kindergarten teacher in Starbucks. She asked if I noticed all the little ones lining up for school. I told her I had dropped my little one off at college yesterday. She clutched her heart.”How was that for you?” “It feels worse today.” I replied. She shared a memory of my daughter from all those years ago. I remembered how much my daughter loved K4 and this teacher. I remembered how I had tried to talk her pre-school teachers out of advancing her to kindergarten. “She could stay, but she’d have to co-teach the class,” they laughingly told me.

I know that this next phase of our lives will be just great. But right now I’m feeling nostalgic for hands to hold and parent teacher meetings. I know I’m not alone. If you’ve ever dropped your oldest off at college you understand. If you’ve dropped your youngest off at college you feel my pain.

I know what I need to focus on are the blessings this day represents. Two healthy, mostly happy kids who worked hard to get themselves into college. Two young adults starting the next phase of their young lives. The boy I dropped off at the university 6 years ago is on his own now, a college graduate. He’s a different person than the boy who asked us as we prepared our exit, “You mean you’re leaving now?” His little sister and I had made his dorm bed and hung his clothes. His father laughingly said “Yes, we won’t be staying at college with you.”

I can only wonder at the growth and changes that the little sister will experience during her college years.

I’m not the first parent to realize that everything we do as parents to love and nurture our children is to get them ready for this day. My husband was only half joking when he shared his thoughts to a young neighbor mom. Her little darling in the pixie bob with the almond eyes, a beautiful gift from China. She showed us her little pink glittery shoes and and told us how kindergarten started next week. “You ‘ll love them so much, buy them hundreds of shoes, and then they’ll leave you.” he predicted. And in the end that’s what happens.

But it’s a wonderful journey. One I’m sure we would never want to miss. And It’s timeless. It will be repeated next fall with others, by  this year’s high school seniors. And 18 years from now by the moms pushing the buggies down my street today. You see the clueless freshmen who forgot to hug her mother was me. I never dreamed I’d be in my mother’s  shoes one day. Sad, happy and grabbing one more hug from a girl focused on what was in front of her. I’m just say’n.

To Cry or Not To Cry

“Mom, you’re not going to cry at graduation are you?” My daughter asked me. Translation: please don’t cry, or set your hair on fire, or any other parental hi jinks. I’m not going to cry I assured her. I tend not to cry at graduations, I view them as true commencements, beginnings. So I planned to stay dry eyed.

She probably didn’t believe me, because I am a cryer.  Big time. I cry at sad movies. When Kevin Costner says to his dad in  the movie “Field of Dreams”  “Wanna have a catch?” I tear up.  My kids always look at me in darkened theaters while I sniff at “My Dog Skip” or any other “family” movie.

I cry while watching TV.  Hallmark movies really do me in.  And the commercials are worse. But I said  I would not cry Sunday at Graduation when my youngest marched in while they played Pomp and Circumstance.

Leaves of Memories

Well that autumnal feeling is upon me and it feels good. That is the direct opposite of how I felt as August days dwindled down at the end of summer. When the kids are little moms say, “They’re ready for school to start.” What we mean is “I am ready for school to start.” We want our house back our kitchen clean and the floor clear of wet swimsuits and other summer debris. After camps and rec. department activities end, the days become long aimless periods between dark evenings notable only for how bad the bugs are biting.
But somewhere between a new driver’s license and the ability to get themselves to their own tennis lesson or friend’s home, a change happens. They begin leaving “childhood” behind, and the status quo alters. At first imperceptibly, she babysits, instead of needing a sitter. Or you notice that the Fourth of July is not quite as exciting as Christmas Eve to him anymore.

When they were little we planned all types of activities to keep summer boredom at bay and yes to create summer memories too. One summer the three of us had our own book club. Something of a feat considering the 6 year difference in their ages,but fun none the less. My daughter and I would make “real” lemonade from scratch at least once each summer and were constantly on the look-out for new recipes for the summer classic. That’s not even counting “backwards day” or lunch-time bike-ride picnics. And as an official graduate of “Mean-mom School” I told my kids they were not even allowed to say they were bored or had nothing to do until at least the middle of July.

But last year my daughter and her best friend went and bought their school supplies without me. (I wonder if the other Mom missed this too.)And this year for the first time since she was three the lemons went unsqueezed in the fridge.

This is the last summer when “school” means the red brick building in our town, and I’m not liking it.

So her father and I were feeling sad with the wind down. Not at all happy about the passage of time. And then we both remembered our own junior summer. How excited we were to be seniors. How the school seemed like our own little kingdom and how everything seemed just ready to pop with excitement and fun, in spite of papers, tests and projects. If our own parents were sad about only one more summer until we left for college we surely didn’t notice.

And so I decided to put the the mopes away.The fall of my senior year was crisp and colorful. And cool sunny Fridays still cause me to remember the feel of my cheerleader’s sweater. I wasn’t sad to leave summer behind to the extent that I could not enjoy Fall and neither is my daughter. The backpack is new, the pencils are sharpened and its another school year to learn and grow. The glass is full, the path is waiting, “mean moms” not withstanding. It’s another beginning, and it will bring it’s own “firsts” and memories to fore. So she’ll enjoy this time and I’ll enjoy watching her enjoy it.And in the end that maybe the best part of parenting, even for a “mean-mom graduate.” I’m just say’n.

In Case Of Emergency…

I know that the common belief is that no one is irreplaceable. But lately I’ve started to wonder and if not “worry” at least be concerned about a few things. You probably have similar concerns. If for example I was abducted by aliens, who in my family would know, or even think to change the bag on the vacuum cleaner? Or what about removing all the dog hair and thread/string that gets mysteriously wrapped around the roller bar? I’ve seen each family member “vacuum” a room with no notice that the carpet looked no different than when they started because the bag was full. So who would change the bag? I have a vision that sooner or later it just explodes in a cloud of dust and debris. Get my drift? Oh I know that after I’m on said alien planet, eventually a housecleaning service will be employed. The bathrooms will be cleaned the cabinets wiped down. But who will vacuum the coils on the back of the fridge, put water in the dog’s dish? And let’s be real, the new toilet paper roll will rarely if ever make it on to the holder. Now I’ve tried to begin teaching my children some basic life, this is how civilized people life skills. But we haven’t gotten around to my recipe for beef stew. And my famous spaghetti sauce? Only my college roommate in Baltimore knows it at this point.

So what does your list look like? I’d love to know. Surely I’m not the only one who fears
that this truly mundane list of life skills will go on unattended.
Please leave your list here, or message me directly. At least than one other person will know what to do in case that alien space ship makes a landing near you. Your friends and I, we can pick up the slack. The carpet and the dog will appreciate it. I’m just say’n.

Worst Mom Ever

A friend lamented the other day what an awful mom she was because after working two jobs, her volunteer duties and taking care of her two at home kids and dog she had taken her son to his Sunday track meet to discover one problem. The meet was Saturday. She just felt awful sure that she was a “bad Mom.” Her comrades in arms/Spanx all assured her she was not a bad mom and that “we’ve all been there.” But what is it that makes Moms so hard on ourselves?
Mixups and forgotten bake-sale cupcakes have happened to most of us and we all have felt the pain of self-censure. Nobody’s perfect. And nobody expects you to be perfect; except you.
Some time ago a Dad-type person I know took his daughters to Six Flags for some summer fun.
After the usual morning-time chaos and the hour drive to the park they arrived. Only for Dad to notice that his youngest, 6 or 7 at the time had forgotten her shoes. Without to much wringing of hands he drove to a nearby discount store and bought her some sneakers. Problem solved.
I don’t remember him telling me his daughter’s lack of shoes reflected on him as a parent. And it didn’t. (He did laugh when he told the story and call his little darling “goofy.) He did not think she would be forever scarred or damaged. He was right. And , she grew up quite beautifully. Now she peaks into patient’s brains as part of Hospital’s Neuro-surgical team. Not so “goofy” after all.
I think my girlfriend is a victim of what I call the syndrome of “Too many shoes.” It goes like this. You’re doing what you need to do working, managing the household, baking the cupcakes. When someone comes crazy-eyed into the room asking “Do you know where my shoes are?” They maybe 6, 16, or 26 years old and they have no idea where their soccer/sandals/ dressy black shoes are. You are equal parts frustrated with their inability to put things where they belong and frightened to realize you  do know where their shoes are.
You know where everyone’s shoes are.
Your head is full of footwear location information. And you are worried. Worried that they will never be able to manage their own lives if they cannot even find their footwear. Is it any wonder that sometimes a detail is overlooked or an afternoon double-booked when your head is full of all those shoes. Yes my friend has too many shoes.
I also think Moms are hardest on ourselves because we really know how much we loved our own Moms.  We try so hard to be that kind of Mom to our kids. And hind sight being 20-20, we now appreciate the little ways we were loved and nurtured by our own mom. Ways we never noticed while they was happening.
A year or two after my mom had died I was in a department store buying underwear. Nothing exciting just underwear. There was probably a sale. While waiting in line with the other women, all different ages, someone remarked that they liked it better when new underwear just appeared on your bed after school. Provided by Mom. We all agreed. This simple purchase for many of us, symbolized the intimate relationship of Mom caring for us like no onle else. Those day -of-the week underpants meant more than their cost in dollar and cents ever could.
So on this Mother’s Day I want to tell my friend she is a good mom too. She wanted to be at the track meet, she forgot the day. She does so many other small and big things for her kids that on this one occasion she confused the days. But she hasn’t once confused her children. They know shes loves them. They will know years from now that she always was thinking of them. She always knew where their shoes were. Because she always knew where her heart was. I’m just say’n.

Transition and Tafeta

This is shaping up to be one interesting week in our home. On Sunday a friend and I took my daughter on the mystical, magical hunt for a prom dress. This rite of passage came with it’s own feeling of one part nostalgia and two parts of disbelief. On Monday our 22 year old son accepted a job in Chicago. It’s his first post-college job not meant to be a “summer” marking -time job.

When I look back at the events in a family’s life that seperate the stages of life I am interested to see how we are all connected by these transistions and how alike my experience is to that of my co-workers and friends who have traveled this same road.

The friend who told me over and over “they’re only little for such a little time. ” When I was exhausted by lack of sleep and my days were ruled by nap-time and wipe-downs it seemed that they would be needy little sponges forever. But now it seems, as if those days just flew by. And oh that reminds me, “the day’s go slow the years fly by” was another pearl from another Mom I know. The truth is if we are on any level awake as parents we are continually having the kind of moments where we are surprised by the passage of time and our own transformation into “grownups.”

Because in my mind (and by that I mean your mind too) it was only yesterday when I was picking out a prom dress or starting a job I would keep past Labor Day. But somehow here we all are. And if your’e not on your way to the promwear department this week don’t worry you will be soon. I’m just say’n.