Confessions of an Alligator

I’m having bad thoughts. Really bad thoughts. What the hell is wrong with me? Am I all alone in this?

Finally, the swirling mass of words formed into coherent sentences and I confessed to my husband that if I had been an alligator yesterday, I would have eaten one of my children (this particular child will henceforth be known as ‘Baby Gator’). The only thing that stopped me was time and social convention.

Why an alligator? On our trip to New Orleans this year, we learned that the male alligators will sometimes eat their babies. I know I’m not a male, but work with me, people. Obviously, we can only speculate as to why they would use such a tactic to deal with their wayward young.

Maybe it was the whining about:

how inconvenient it is having someone come in every two weeks to clean their nesting area

how awkward it is to have to play with his/her alligator siblings

how it’s not fair that the alligator siblings got a snake or a rabbit for dinner and Baby Gator got just a turtle, etc.

– OR –

Maybe it was the storming and stomping around exclaiming why everything was the Daddy Alligator’s fault:

the bayou is too wet

the world spinning

the weather is hot

the rodents are too small, etc.

When I take all of that into consideration, I have some sympathy for the Alligator that uses this extreme measure in dealing with his young. Sure, you don’t want to be impulsive. Also, sleeping on it might be a prudent action.

So that’s what I did – I’d been sleeping on it, sitting on it and thinking about it for a couple of days. However, yesterday after hearing the last and final straw-of-a-whine from Baby Gator, I promptly picked my head off of the floor (it popped off in an effort to release the steam that had been accumulating) and quickly returned it to its rightful spot. Then, I uttered a mild and mature, “Shut it!” as I left the room.

Huh? Okay, maybe not the most mature response, but what else could I do? It was either that or eat Baby Gator.

Since I’m not an Alligator and I am a human, I’m sure that the eating of Baby Gator would not have been well-received as a viable parenting practice. And,  I’m confident that this parental act would definitely be considered as thinking “outside the box”, and not in a good way.

So what do you do with teenagers? You would think that I would know how to handle most situations by now, but clearly I haven’t figured it out. What’s the deal? Am I getting slower in my old age? Is my skull getting thicker? I feel like I’m losing my mojo and I’m a little rattled. All I need is a confidence boost.

I do recognize that this Fall will be bringing a lot of changes for our family and I’m sure this is mostly responsible for the current of craziness coursing through our house. I suppose I need to keep all of this in mind as I deal with our Baby Gators.

But, oh. My. Goodness. Give me the strength. Please.

The Beginnings of Summer 2012

It has been an interesting time in our house – it all started with prom in May and ended with our post graduation vacation to Orlando at the end of May. Whirlwind doesn’t even really describe it – all of the stuff parents and seniors have to do at the end of the year is crazy!

Events leading up to prom were stressful, but then everything worked out and she had a terrific and memorable time at her first and last prom (Ray is in the purple dress).

Every event of her senior year made me cry (in private) because, well, I’m a crier and the passing of each event meant that graduation was nearer. And, then it arrived…..

Surprisingly enough, I kept it together (only cried during the speeches). I owe his stoicism to my new camera (thank you, dear camera). I was so focused (pun intended) on taking pictures of Rachel and all of her friends that I didn’t have the time for sentimentality. Have you ever tried to take pictures when your body is convulsing due to extreme sobbing? It’s really hard. Trust me.

Since I’m an overanalyzer and tend to think way too much about everything, I have been going around in circles wondering if I’ve given my girl everything that she needed. Did I push her too much, not enough? Did I hover too much, not enough? Was I there for her emotionally when she needed it? Have I been a good role model (except for the sailor mouth) for her? Etc….

I’m not looking for pats on the back or reassurances. Really. Don’t you think it’s normal to assess your parenting at a juncture in your child’s life by going through a litany of self-doubt questions? Some don’t ask many questions and say to themselves, “It is what it is.” (God, how I hate that saying.) And some, like me, ask multiple questions and then question the answers to those questions. (I have A LOT penetrating, self-doubt questions available, so if you are in need of some or run out, email me and I will send you the list.)

I think it would be weird to think to yourself, “Fantastic! I (with some of my husband’s help) did an absolutely perfect job with this kid. Kudos to me (I mean, us)!” 

What? You don’t think that’s a weird sentiment? Then, maybe you’re one of those and if so, why are you reading my blog? Go write a parenting book and quit judging me!

When I do consider it honestly, I know deep down that she shouldn’t need but 6 months of therapy – that’s how good parenting is measured. You know. . . . . .by therapy months. If you haven’t heard of this new method of assessing your parenting awesomeness, you are behind the times, my friend. I think I saw it in some parenting magazine a while back or saw it on the Today Show. By the way, six months is average to better than average on the Therapy Months Scale. Anything beyond two years means you really F&%#ed up and you should probably be in therapy yourself.

Despite some glaring mistakes that cannot be unmade, she has turned out to be a bright, thoughtful, funny, good-humored (for a teenager), soft-hearted, determined, stubborn, beautiful, and confident young lady.

Our next big milestone on the path to college is in July when we take her to orientation and then the biggie – we take her to school at the end of August. Meanwhile, my denial is going strong and I should be able to keep it up until August. [Just a warning: This blog could get really morose, pitiful and boring starting in September.]

By the way, here’s how we ended May and brought in June – we went to Orlando and did three parks in three days (Sea World, Magic Kingdom & Islands of Adventure) – crazy, but fun!! The entire purpose of the trip was to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (in the Islands of Adventure) and it was very cool and worth it!

Here’s to a great summer!

No More Pretending

I’m wallowing. I’m sad and I’m tired of pretending like I’m okay. Why do we have to pretend? I’m sick of it.

My firstborn, my baby is graduating high school this May (in about 6 weeks) and I feel like I’m drowning.

Oh, okay. I see how it is.  I’ve lost some of you already. I can tell by the sighing. Well, good riddance. I didn’t need you anyway.

For those of you that have chosen to stay, I’m tired of hearing:

“This is a part of life.”

You mean like dying and taxes?

“We all go through it.”

We all went through puberty and I don’t remember that life experience being all that great.”

“You will be fine once she leaves.”

Huh?

“It’s what you’ve been training her for her whole life.”

What? I don’t get this one. You train for a marathon, not life.

“You’ve done a great job with her, she will be fine.”

Again, what? She’s not a dog I’ve trained to win ‘Best in Show’.

I worked full-time outside the home until 2005, so I know the twisted torment of dropping off your kids to be cared for by others. That internal struggle of wanting a bigger life for myself while also wanting to do the best for my kids was a battle I fought every day. I had finally come to peace with it until Rachel entered first grade. Nothing prepared me for her first day of school.

She was so cute with her backpack, her bob haircut with bangs and her big, trusting blue eyes. The elementary stood there glaring at me – it was the very same elementary I had attended (better memories was my hope for her). We stormed through those doors with purpose looking for Mrs. Baker’s class. After a few minutes, we found it.  A little anxious for Rachel, I began to fawn over her by messing with her backpack and asking her if she was okay. Then, we found her classroom. Without pause, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, here is my class.”

And, off she went. She marched into that classroom and never looked back. She left me dangling in that hallway with my reassuring mommy wave and smile. It was wasted because she never turned around. No hugs, no kisses, no formal good-byes. She was ready and I was not.

Trying not to look devastated (I had braced myself for clinging and some drama), I gave a nod to the other parents hanging around Mrs. Baker’s door. This nod attempted to convey these thoughts:

“I meant for her to do that.”

“My parenting is clearly without equal.”

“Just look at her, she is so ready for school.”

“She will leave your kid in a dust cloud.”

I sobbed for the entire commute to my office. However, I eventually recovered and moved on because, well, I had to. She adjusted beautifully and there was really nothing I could do about it.

It seems we did a helluva job with this one because, in addition to being a mature and loving young lady, she is graduating with a 3.6 GPA and a sizeable scholarship from the college of her dreams.

Despite myself and because of my husband, we actually have raised three kids that like being near each other and have fun together. All five us eat dinner together at the table whenever humanly possible and it’s wonderful and very Cleaverish. Ray has the goofiest sense of humor, tells stories that are only funny to her and eats everything I cook no matter what. Like the front tooth that disappears from a child’s smile, she will leave big gap at the table. We don’t know how to be a family of four.

Chicago in August will be tough. When we drop her off at her at her freshman dorm, she will very likely say, ” Well, here’s my room” and confidently walk into that new life without looking back.

And, I will sob all the way home.

Great Expectations

Am I an indulgent parent? I really don’t think so, but I rarely say, “no” to a reasonable request. It sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it?

We have worked  diligently on managing expectations – the kids have figured out what will and won’t fly. It’s not perfect though. The system still breaks down. They are children and they have an obligation to push back.

But, it breaks down more frequently with one of my children in particular. She talks like she gets it, but then……..Bam!

She understands: 

“Yes, you can have a stuffed giraffe. No, you cannot have a real giraffe.”

“Yes, you can have a pair of Converse in every color. If you want them, you buy them or ask for them as birthday/Christmas gifts.”

This and other similar examples are where we have successfully managed expectations.

Where has it broken down? She thinks I’m her personal chauffeur just sitting around awaiting her next instructions. (I have absolutely nothing else to do.)

In response to me saying, “no” to taking her to the mall at the last minute: “When you have kids, that’s your job.”

In response to me being agitated with her for not helping me find a lacrosse carpool (practice every day M-F during dinner):  “Why did you even have kids?”

After grabbing my head to stop it from spinning and separating from my body and after popping my eyes back into my skull, I mull over these statements of hers and determine that her sentiment can be summed up as such:

“In having kids, you are explicitly entering into a binding contract which means you will do the bidding of said kids and give up any chance of having a life of your own until such time said kids can manage on their own which could be until they’re in their late 20s.”

Holy crap! Why did I have kids? Now, I’m not sure. Maybe I was young and stupid (I clearly did not read the fine print). Damn you, biological clock and propagation of the species!

Regardless of the reason, we have them and we can’t send them back.

Where did I go wrong with this one? I’m befuddled. Maybe I should have encouraged her to join the Girls Scouts (see prior post) – she could use a healthy dose of feminism.

Then, I had a brainstorm when I was talking with one of my friends. When I’m at the age where I can’t tell the difference between the TV and microwave, who am I going to call for help? Yep, you’ve got it!

“Honey, I need you to come over and pick me up RIGHT NOW and take me to my hair appointment.”

“Can you drop what you’re doing right this second and take me to the grocery?’

“I need you cancel your schedule for today and take me to my bridge luncheon and then take me to the doctor so he can evaluate that mysterious rash I’ve been telling you about.”

“Will you come over and do my laundry? I need clean underwear TODAY.”

“I’m really hungry. Can you drive over and make me a sandwich?”

“I’m getting bedsores. You need to come over STAT and roll me over.”

“I can’t find my teeth and it’s your fault! You brushed them last.”

. . . . . . . .Oh, you’re still here. I’m sorry, I was daydreaming (maybe drifting off is a better phrase?).

Anyway, in the meantime, I suppose Mike and I have to get a little more creative in our lessons on “Reasonable Expectations”.

Onward and upward…

Who Wants to Get Married by Elvis?

Maddie: “Mommy, you know how you always say that you want us to elope and then come home for a party (reception)?”

Me (uh oh): “Uh, yeah.”

Maddie: “Well, somehow the topic of  weddings came up and I told Mrs. Friend’s Mom about what you said. She was really shocked and really kind of surprised that you would say anything like that. She just couldn’t believe it.”

[Oh, greeeaaaat. Mrs. Friend’s Mom, who is really a very nice person, now thinks I’m crazy, cruel and/or un-American. Sometimes I can relate to Christine in the New Adventures of Old Christine especially when she is trying to fit in with the moms in her kid’s school.]

Me: “Really? Hmmm… “You know I’m kidding when I say things like that, right?”

Maddie: “It doesn’t sound like you’re kidding.”

Am I kidding? Well, kind of. When did my kids actually start listening to me anyway?

Sometimes I forget Maddie is very black and white, very literal (the nuances of what is being said can get lost in translation). The other two usually roll their eyes and ignore what I say when it sounds silly or unreasonable. Not that girl.

And, Maddie also stores everything I say in her little “shit my mom says” brain vault for use against me later. She never regurgitates the “good” stuff for the masses (I have spouted some valuable words of wisdom, haven’t I?).

Back to the nuptials, don’t you think the craze of these uber-expensive weddings is insane? “That’s not real life, you know that, girls. Right?” ” Daddy and I didn’t have a wedding like that and we’re still happily married.”  Blah, blah…

Girls: Yes, Mommy dear.”

One summer, my hairdresser (God, how old am I? I meant to say, “salon technician“) was in 5 or 6 weddings and well on her way to 27 dresses. I kid you not! Well, two years later, over half of these marriages are over with a capital O and a capital VER. And, some of these weddings were over-the-top even by my Technician’s standards (not just mine). All I kept thinking was, “Those poor parents. If that were my daughter, I’d kill her!”

Yeah, I know. That’s not a very compassionate attitude toward my lovies so I won’t share that with my kiddos (just you guys). I don’t think they read my blog.

My methods may be unorthodox (jokingly encouraging elopement), but I’m trying to keep my kids grounded in the real world. Raising kids in our community along with the crazy media images makes the goal of raising grounded children difficult.

Speaking of weddings, I would like to report that the hubs and I will be celebrating two milestones this February:  the 30th anniversary of our first date and our 21st wedding anniversary! (Yeah, I know, 9 years of dating. It was a process, but I finally talked him into it). 🙂

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

The Year of Letting Go

This begins my official year of letting go. You see, my oldest has officially started her senior year in high school. Next year at this time we will be driving her to college. *sigh* 

Actually, this year is a big one for me because all three of my kids are experiencing transitions – Ray is a senior, Maddie entered high school as a freshman (I have two kids in high school, acckkk!) and my baby entered the world of junior high as a 6th grader. You’ll have to excuse me, but I’m a bit melancholy these days.

The college thing will be my first major, major transition involving one of my children (of course, besides actually bringing them into the world). I will need every bit of this year to prepare myself for day when we drop her off at college and then just drive away.

I do want to assure you that it’s not like I’m new to transitions and I do handle them pretty well:

~First day of daycare: I bawled like a baby that first day when I returned to work full-time (and every morning after that for about a month).

~First day of first grade: I sobbed like a fool after driving her to school for her first day of 1st Grade. When I dropped her off at her classroom door, she marched right in and never looked back. I wanted to give her a final smile of encouragement, but apparently she didn’t need it (I needed it more than she did. She was ready and I was not).

~First time at sleep-away camp: She had just finished 2nd grade and she was going to be gone for two nights. I cried on the way home after dropping her off. She was 90 minutes away for goodness sake! 

~Freshman year: What about the day I drove her to the Freshman Kick-off at the high school? On the way home, I cried so hard that I nearly blinded myself with tears and almost didn’t make it back to the house.

Um, after taking this stroll down memory lane, I’ve been reminded that maybe I don’t handle transitions well at all. I’m doomed.

This next milestone in both of our lives will be different from those previously mentioned. She won’t be coming home at the end of the school day.  There, I said it.

Man, you think I’m a worrier now, what is it going to be like when she doesn’t have to text me when she gets to her destination? Or ask permission to stay later somewhere or spend the night at a friend’s?

I do realize that with texting and skyping it will be easier to keep in touch with her which will ease my worry a smidge. As my parents can attest to, I rarely called home once I got to college and they couldn’t text or email me to find out why I wasn’t picking up my phone!

Wait, wait. What? I’m sorry my hubs is whispering something in my ear –  “Babe, she’s not gone yet!” Oh, yeah, right.

Did Mike and I teach her all she needs to know? My mind will be churning this year trying to make sure we’ve covered all of the important lessons. What are the important lessons? Does anyone have a list I can borrow? I’m starting to hyperventilate and I can’t think properly.

I mean, I think we’ve covered the biggies: Treat others as you would like to be treated, Be cautiously skeptic (mommy, I’m not cynical like you!), Believe in yourself, Use your common sense, Have a good work ethic, Respect yourself and others, ummm, any others? Come on, people! Help me out here.

It’s the stuff that takes a lifetime to learn that I’m concerned about (not laundry or budgeting training). Did we do her justice? I sure hope so.

I need to know if something is lacking in our life skills training at home. I’ve got two others in the queue for the push from the nest and there’s still plenty of time to amend the lesson plans!

Mother’s Day 2011 Revisited

This is a bit late –  I’ve been busy! We have had to be somewhere every night this week for one reason or another. My life is truly not my own anymore. When it was my own, I didn’t take advantage of it (why didn’t someone tell me?).

Anyhoo, I had a nice Mother’s Day, but it only lasted until for about 3 hours and then it was back to real life. We had a soccer game, family Mother’s Day/Birthday cookout and then a basketball game. Somewhere in there I had to make mac & cheese for the family gathering and pick up a cake. It was non-stop crazy, but we got it done.

I told Mike that we should celebrate Mother’s Day on the sunday after the real Mother’s Day so they can actually serve and pamper me properly all day long! I deserve at least one whole day (instead of 3 hours), right?

Mother’s Day did start out awesome! I got a homemade breakfast made by Maddie and Mike – french toast, fancy bacon, strawberries and coffee. This is my favorite breakfast.

I also received very thoughtful gifts – my family is really good at this. Among the CSA cookbook, Sketchers Shape-ups and hand-crafted coffee cups, my favorite gift was my handmade T-shirt ala Modern Family (if you don’t watch this show, you are missing the funniest show on TV!). Did I wear it? You bet!

However, the best gift I receive each year are the latest entries in my Mother’s Day Journal.  In 2004, Mike started this wonderful tradition of having the kids write something in this journal each year. It’s a snapshot of my kids over the years – I love this journal.

In the journal this year is a Top 10 List in David Letterman style written by my son:

Top 10 Reasons I Love Mommy

10. Laundry

9.  Driving

8. You’d watch sports with me

7. You let me watch what I want

6. Reciting the schedule

5. Cooking

4. You think I’m awesome

3. You love me

2. Fun

And, the #1 reason I love my mommy:  You’re awesome!

Isn’t that sweet? I do want to interject that regarding item #7, please interpret this as that  I suffer through yet another episode of SpongeBob Squarepants or iCarly! I have to say that #6 cracks me up too!

One of Maddie’s contributions:

Mother

Definition according to Webster:  [muTH’ er] n. A female parent.

Definition according to Kids:  [Mommy] n. A person that teaches you how to manage time; always brings you things you forgot; loves you forever; NOT your best friend!

I would include one of Rachel’s entries, but she expressed herself with drawings and not poems or lists. She expressed herself in a very artsy, cool way.

It’s nice to know how the kids really feel at least once a year! Thanks to my awesome hubby, I have it documented 🙂

I hope all of the Moms out there had a lovely, memorable day! I know that I did 🙂