Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bath time no more

First I had to search back to when I wrote a blog about bath time for the boys and did a double take because it was YIKES 2 years ago, almost to the day.  I had a friend who had an older sister, she was about 7 years older than us which seemed so worldly, cool, where we wanted to be so desperately - no rules, boyfriends, makeup, going out places that were beyond our reach at the tender age of 13 and for which we could not wait and damn time went by sooo slooowwly.  She once told us as we watched her get ready, and warned us to not touch her stuff when she left - which of course we did, that she felt like life was like a roller coaster - took forever to go up from your earliest memory as a toddler to your 20s and that is the top -- around 25 you start speeding down at a crazy speed, stomach dropping, excited but scared.  She may not have been that eloquent but the rollercoaster image stuck with me.  So true  - it took forever to get to certain ages, days were eons long and full of "I'm bored" statements and then all of a sudden without warning the drop happened.  I have been on this rollercoaster drop for the past 15 + years and yes it is exciting and my pulse is still racing but I could use a curb to slow it down here and there. 

So 2 years ago I wrote how I loved bath time with the boys, when they still took 1) baths 2) let me help them 3) together.  I think that changed a few months after I wrote it.  Somehow the older child decided he wanted showers. This does not mean the independence it may imply.  No I was not out of the bath routine thing - for one the younger child still wanted a bath for about a year.  Then  they both started showering alone but that statement is a bit misleading too.  Let me illustrate - one night after a long day, followed by a long afternoon post work of homework that was somehow never ending, dinner making and cleaning up - well I asked my husband to assist them with their showers.  To him this means something quite different than it does to me as we were about to find out.  I was finishing the last of the dishes when I heard much stomping and loud voices from upstairs.  Both boys saying "No .. that's not right..that's not RIGHT!!" to which poor, also long day, tired husband was yelling back "it doesn't matter just get in"....I went up.  Both boys were naked and neither would get in the shower since 1) he had not put the slip proof mat down 2) he had not turned on the shower and tested it on his own hand until it was just right 3) had not lined up their shampoo/body cleanser, bath sponge from the back of the tub.  It was a standoff similar to Dog Day Afternoon - Attica  -- the inmates not willing to bend to the warden or the "man"... the "man" ready to throw the gas cans.    I walked up wearily and they descended, all 3, talking at the same time each side unsure of how the other could not see the error their ways.  I could run Congress 'cause trust me 2 naked boys and one tired father on opposing sides is a lot harder than grown men acting like boys.  I did the 3 things above and peace was restored.  

So bath time with the boys in my house remains something I am involved in.  They can lay down their own mat, and probably could play with the water until they get it right (did I mention that they like different temps which is always another discussion depending on who goes first).  I still have to sit in the bathroom to hand out towels and direct the traffic of one getting in and one getting out.  I am asked to listen to them tell stories about their day - answer imaginary battles between Thor and other superheroes  -- clip nails and do a quick check as there have been shampoo still in hair when getting out of the shower (which then leads to back to fixing the water because it was already changed for the other kid) or the famous "you really scrubbed -- hmm  as the same mark seems to still be there"  incidents.  I also am bit of a lice phobe (one instance and I am still squirmy thinking about it) so poor guys have to get this lice comb done every shower (benefit no lice has ever reappeared and they get a nice "do" for a bit ) and I am also local nail cutter.  I have to hold my tongue at how hard it appears to be for them to dry themselves with towel rather than have it glide over their bodies walking away still fairly wet.  

I could go the "let them be independent" route - and they would get it done am sure I just don't because the talks we have in there are great and they have this amazing way of reminding me that their days are still the long, upward rollercoaster ride that still has many, many places to fly through.  It is not that I couldn't it is just that I still am holding on, am sure in less than a year I may no longer be welcomed in there by the older boy and my rollercoaster ride will take a really big bump then.  As much as I love watching them evolve a little bit of me still wants to use the handbrake here and there.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The birthday party dilemma

I started this blog with my annoyed rant about some news item last week and then yesterday a devastating tornado destroyed what used to be a town in Oklahoma, what is now the site of people who have lost loved ones and all they had.  

So part of me wanted to write something somber but I thought maybe we do not need any more sad news - maybe we need to laugh at the trivial things that make our days important to us and to celebrate the mundane by being grateful for all we have.  My thoughts are with those people in Oklahoma today because it will take a long time to be able to focus on the mundane.  

At the end of this blog I will post a link where you can donate for the victims if you can - and if you cannot send good karma and thoughts their way. Remember to tell those around you they are important to you and love each day as it should be worshiped. 

The birthday party conundrum.  You see since my boys were of age 3 (before that parties occurred in my house, with a few friends and honestly if they didn't have picture proof the boys would have no idea if the party happened or not) I have been planning these theme parties.  Now mind you I am not alone.  The mothers I am friends with are really good at finding good venues, rock climbing/zoos/good old health club with or without swim time, and having some great parties (which always result in my taking boys home to the tune of "can I have my party there?" while opening with wild abandon the goody bags they have gotten ).  I tried for a while to do something other kids had not done, oh I know every mother tries - and we get pretty good, almost stealth in our unspoken connection to pull this off.  Then it becomes harder and harder until you go with booking same place because after all it was a good party.  I have done animal sanctuaries, magic shows, swim/gym parties, bounce parties, rent playground parties, kung fu parties... you get it.  Always looking for that goody bag that will be taken (and which will get those kids lined up at the end of the party like a methadone clinic after a heroin shortage, slightly glassy eyed look in need of that fix - followed by slight euphoria passing on their face as they find that lollipop/candy).  I work tirelessly to put these goody bags together, make them unisex enough for the boys/girls after having learned my lesson about making them gender specific and having to fight off the little addicts as their grubby hands pressed toward me like a bad 70s disaster or zombie flick trying to get theirs as they were leaving. I try to match the goody bag, invites to the theme of the party...this is why party planners make so much money - it is a full time job.  

I have a good friend who owns a company that makes gorgeous personalized products, that I have mentioned in this blog before, and her creations have always given my goody bags something a little extra.  I am impressed by the parties she throws as I see them in pictures and wince slightly knowing that I am probably going to do a drive by version of her event.  

My dilemma is that this year I thought at 9 my son was somehow past these parties.  While his brother will get another few out of the deal, I breathed a premature sigh of relief that for the soon to be 9 year old movies and lunch, or maybe a trip to the city to Ripley's Believe It or Not and lunch, with say 3-4 friends would do. No goody bags (or very small ones), email the other mother's as invites and I was done.  I was quite pleased with my idea and he seemed to be too -- until the birthday got closer.  Until my friend who owns Hampton Paper Designs posted her amazing party for her ..yikes 10 year old son.  Until may of his other 9 year old buds were still having some sort of party.  Now I have birthday party dilemma.  I have not planned, it is less than a month away and we are leaving for Europe the day after his birthday.....shit!!!! That's right I curse.

So here I am writing my blog instead of scrambling because I have decided that I may stick to original plan and be fine with it.  I will need some sort of goody bags but I do not need to stress myself.  I do this to myself much like all the other mothers.  We try so hard to make our children feel they have it all .. and they do regardless of the party.  They have parents who care, parents who devote their drive to ensuring they have opportunities and basic needs met, parents who shower them with affection and encouragement on a regular basis.  These kids whose families we are friends with live a life full of daily goody bags.  

I will still plan but a little less - because the only dilemma I really have is not what type of party, which goody bag but to keep doing what I am doing everyday to build my boys into the great people they show they have the potential of being. So let's take a deep breath and whether you can plan a House and Garden worthy party (which if you can good for you) or just a barbecue with some Carvel cake (equally good for you)... our greatest gifts come without wrapping, are invisible to the naked eye and continue to give all their lives... our greatest gifts are those moments of parenting that are not easy but are done because they need to be.  Now off to plan his celebration because I may have forgotten to mention that I actually enjoy it too. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

She believes in me

My 8 year old son wrote the most wonderful poem for Mother's Day for me and it was titled "She Believes in Me'.  I am not sure if I ever felt more accomplished than reading that. My other son wrote a poem that basically said that for all that he needs... Mommy delivers. 

You try as a parent to do many things, teach them right from wrong, to be kind to others, to place importance on things like education, art, music, books, their friendships, travel, learning in all sorts of ways instead of just things that they "get".  You spend a lot of time wondering which of this moments of being a parent will come back to you as a reproach, a moment when you and they both realize you tried to do it right but maybe it was the end of a long day and you had less patience, a meeting that you needed to be at and not the school trip (regardless of how many you make it will be the one you miss that you dwell upon), or maybe it was that terrible moment when you were not the mother you wanted to be but the mother you are.  You know her, I know her. I live as her.  I do not always make the brownies for the class birthday but buy them.  I make home made meals but give in to chicken nugget cries from the boys.  The mother who does not sew or knit or look perfect every moment of every day.  It is that moment when you realize you cannot have it all - that your work is important to you and then you feel guilty - that your family is even more important and you feel guilty.  There are the moments when you just do not want to play one more round of War because you know there is laundry to be done, the moment when your house is not House and Garden perfect, or you forgo fixing something in the house because your funds have gone to taking the kids on a vacation this year and what the heck you can squeeze another year in the kitchen with the ugly countertop.  

I am that mother - I try so hard to be the mother who delivers for her kids.  I play every day with them, I go to the games (even on days when I hope no one sees me looking at my phone cause baseball is sooo dull).  I take them on vacations and to museums and have fun with them.  My whole life revolves around kid appropriate activities and making sure my kids know I love them.  Yet I am not perfect nor do I think I will ever be.  There are books that will tell me how French women do it better, and of course look better doing it while chomping on a macaroon, or how I need to let them be more independent (oh yeah cause they don't have a lifetime of doing chores all the time).  I plan parties for them from the theme, to the goody bag, and am grateful for the friendships I have with other Moms who pass along helpful hints, or have amazing websites of their own for my supplies, or just remind me that I am trying my best. 

Then there is Mother's Day and my kids give me the poems and I realize that I may not be perfect but I am doing it well.  My boys are empathetic, kind, smart, loving and confident.  They have the belief that with me behind them, and their Dad too, there is nothing they cannot try.  Nothing scares them - they can try and even if they do not excel they feel they succeed in learning something.  I do not need to be the beautiful French mother (I am sure there are plenty like me, eyeliner askew,  serving nuggets de poulet and wondering if she is doing it right) or any other nationality.  I am me and somehow I am doing ok.  We get no formal training in this role, use our own mothers are role models to follow or not depending on the experience, and we are thrust into it with this amazing open heart and love unlike we have ever even imagined.  For me the success in my role lies in making my sons into boys who know they are worth a lot, that they are amazing and will do great things in whatever they choose to do.  It means making them understand that their humbleness lies in their living to their potential not showing off.  I look at my sons and their friends and I have great hope for the future because they are really bright, caring children who seem to share a belief that they will go on to make a difference in so many different ways.  They talk in terms of people and not races, in terms of love and parents not gender (marriage equality appears to be no-brainer for them), they see violence as something to be ashamed of and yet they are kids who play, and play rough, but know their limits.  I have great hope for their future and like the poem said I believe in them.  I will continue my education on the job as a mother ....and what a great ride it is to be so unlike the magazines.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother's Day

   If you ever need a gentle reminder, to save you from the guilt and not so gentle reminders that will haunt you forever, this is it... SUNDAY IS MOTHER'S DAY.

Now pretty much most mothers will tell you not to fuss, not to worry, that a card will do... and when you are in grammar school with your hand drawn cards and gifts it is so true.  However, if you are holding down a steady job regardless of annual pay you better get that woman at least some nice flowers with said card that you actually took the time to read prior to buying and sending.  

They deserve it - the mothers.  It is really an amazingly difficult job that never ends.  I was lucky enough to have an imperfect perfect mother.  She was not always right... but you knew to say she was at least 99.9% of the time regardless of the veracity of that statement.  She was not always fair... well to me she wasn't especially when I was a teenager so there may be some bias in that statement.  My mother did not really hit, even in an era when hitting was not seen through the whole politically correct lens that equates a swat on the butt to a beating.  She instead had Guantanamo Bay worthy punishment tactics.  My mother did not give a punishment at the time of my said infringement, she thought it through and wham all of sudden as I was getting ready for a party I "was dying" to go would remind me that I was not allowed.  She also had stealth tactics employed from a distance before the nanny cam. My mother worked in the city and I came home every day after school and I was to have a snack (prepped nicely in fridge for me), do my homework, practice piano and then only then watch tv.  Now for you youngsters reading this let me share a little secret.  The tv back then, huge piece of furniture, would get hot in the back, the longer it was on the hotter.  So imagine my dismay when she knew I may have had snack, done homework in front of the tv that I should not have had on... it was lava hot.  Then there was the piano practicing.  Here is where my mom was Mom-00Mom...one week, every day before my Friday afternoon lesson she smilingly asked me if I had practiced and I smiled and said of course.  That Thursday Agent Mom nicely without any warning took me to said piano, lifted the lid and asked me how I had managed to practice every day without disturbing the clothespins (on each and every white key I might add) on the keyboard??? Yeah BUSTED.  

My mother was always there for me.. she may not have liked what I had to say, may sometimes provide me with feedback that really is not useful (yes Mom I know I still struggle with weight), and provided lots of guidance even when not asked for it.  I love her for this, well the weight thing there is always therapy time for, because she never did it without the thought of how I may be better for it.  My mother has always sacrificed for me and with me in mind.  She never tells me I am perfect but she always tells me she is proud of me.  She taught me to love so much about life and to be optimistic especially when it is so much easier to roll my eyes and just sit down to cry.  My mother's life was not easy, hard work, hard husbands, ok not always the easiest only child (what? I was a teenager and I am fiercely independent with a mother who wants to "help" a lot). My mother has always found pleasure in the things that she did have and taught me to do the same.  She taught me what love meant without boundaries, especially when I was not the easy child.  My boys just adore her - because as good a mom as she was she is an even more amazing, though the amount of lenient behavior she exhibits toward my kids is my eye roll, as a grandmother.  

I was not always sure I wanted to be a mother - I cannot imagine not being one now. My boys have taught me to love with an abandon that scares me.  I am so good at controlling my feelings (and avoiding giving 100% to everyone but maybe 2 or 3 people) and yet they unlock an abundance of emotions that take me from elated, to scared, to Exorcist head turning mad, to protective, encouraging and madly in love all sometimes within the first 10 minutes of walking through the door.  This mother's day thank you to my mother, all the wonderful women who are mothers that I am lucky to have befriended through my sons, my friends who have turned out to be "bow down to" mothers and most of all to my sons who make me a better woman for being their mother.