Thursday, August 27, 2015

What You End Up Saying Instead of I Love You

I had memorized every word the night before. Actually, more like the early morning of. At 2:19 a.m., I knew exactly what I was going to say and do when we dropped off our oldest son at college the next day.

It would be perfect: I would stand before him, like the Virgin Mary. Offering gentle outstretched hands with my head leaning just slightly to the side, I would pull my child in close. Reaching up to smooth his hair, his trusting eyes would search out mine. I would smile with the peaceful restraint of someone who had just been drugged and sigh, "My beautiful baby boy. How proud we are of you, how well you will do this year. We love you so!" Then we would share a brief but meaningful hug with the end goal being lasting just long enough to cement the moment. His arms over mine, I would whisper, "Goodbye, my son!" I would then turn, no looking back, and walk to our minivan, on firm--not Jello--legs. And then, it would be over. Goodbye with a noble chin up like Margaret Thatcher.


Wednesday's college drop-off went like this: Our son walks us to the car. We knew it was the goodbye. My resolve is to gift him with the reassuring calm of our love and wisdom. What sprang forth instead, was:

Use single-ply for toilet paper because double-ply plugs. You have to sleep or you'll start to feel depressed. Make sure you smile back so you look happy to be here. Never put your drinking cups mouth side down on counters because so many germs. Wash your hands because other people wipe their butts and they never wash their hands. I've seen it.

He tried to step away for air as I made his neck into a lifesaver.

Did that stop my brilliance? Nope. I shout directions like I did that night almost two decades ago when we first left him with a babysitter.

Clenching him by his shirt, I start anew:

Don't lend money. Look over your shoulder when you walk home alone at night and do not walk home with earbuds in so you can hear if someone is following you. Eat protein or you'll feel depressed. Always take a shower because it's like a miracle. So is a new shirt, so let me know and I'll send you some. Good posture and a good haircut save many a day.

Then I fall full-face into my son, in the same desperate way that he would try to crawl back up into my arms and out of his small plastic bathtub when he was four months old.

I couldn't stop. My voice muffled by his chest, I continue.

Read labels so you know what you're eating. In your white plastic bin are three bottles of vitamins and calcium each, take them. Change your toothbrush when it's splayed. Drink water. Keep a hat--earmuffs aren't the same--in your backpack. And an umbrella--because chills and rain come out of nowhere in Wisconsin. Move five minutes for every hour of sitting. If you think you need to go to the health clinic, don't think, go.

I force down the lump rising in my throat. I don't know why I am on this mission, but I am. I caw, Purell. Wet socks are bad. Be sure and see some blue and green every day, because scurvy is real.

All the while I am spouting verses that sound like Mother Goose, the real message has yet to happen. My beautifully rehearsed golden college send-off speech that I am determined to carry out.

It's now or never, so I square my shoulders and step back. I open my mouth to bestow my practiced pearls of love and wisdom upon my son, and I hear a crackled glottal fry worse than a Kardashian fill the air.

Suddenly, streams. No, rivers. Waterfalls. I lunge for my son and a flood of tears that would not stop soak his shirt while I am back to swinging from his neck like a weighted pendulum. I try to break through but the moment swallows me up and I am croaking like a frog.

Never has my voice disappointed me more.

"Mom," my son asks, sounding genuinely puzzled. "Why are you crying?"

He asks me so simply, as if words could answer. I squeeze my eyes and hide my face in his neck. I pull on both his shoulders and want him to know that I just need him to do all these things I've sputtered at him like someone who has five minutes to blow up fifty balloons.

I can't be here anymore to make sure he does everything so I need him to.
I need him to listen to this manual on how to care for himself and all these things I've thrown at him will keep him safe, sound, healthy, happy.
I have taken care of him his entire life, and now, I won't be here to do it.
He has to be the one to make sure he arrives home every night.
Without earbuds in.

Because this beautiful baby boy, the one we are so proud of, the one who is going to do so well, we love him so much.

And if there was a google translator that he could plug in to make sense of my, "Wash your hands because others don't and earmuffs are not the same as a hat," it would tell him with 100 percent accuracy, "Your mama loves you so much it leaves her stupid."

* * *
*Special thanks to my dear friend who is walking this path with me, Peyton Price of Suburban Haiku, for providing the inspiration for this post. Times like this, friends carry us. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lives of Our Own

Whether trying to appear strong and self sufficient, or out of loneliness, turning us into confidantes with a fa├žade of stories that reflect them in the best light, we can never really know our parents. It's only when they slip unguarded and share a story that moves too fast to censor, that we witness the person who existed before they were parent.

I write of just such a story, of my mother when she was young, beautiful, and she first met my father.

I am proud to share it today on Purple Clover .

* * *

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's Really Not the Same as Waving a White Flag

Going on Hour 1? Hour 2? It's all a blur

The finish line is almost here, close enough to see its promise in the distance. All we need is just a few more strong strides and we're there, the end of August and HALLELUIA CELEBRATE because summer is now on its way to becoming something soft and fuzzy and in our memories.

But, for today, I still have five days left with a full house and the clues to how it all goes down at home in the last bit of summer are in full force all over my Facebook feed.

It's like the last day at a job, where you sorta do a good job, just enough so that you get a good reference.

One look at my lunches this week of August 24--a sleeve of saltines on a paper plate alongside three cold cuts-- and you know it's the end of August. If you were to see me driving to school to drop off pre-registration papers, it's with my slippers on because I don't care, it's still vacation. And if my signature is needed on all these papers, it's all good. They're not due until August 31, really, and August 31 isn't here... yet.

Way back in June, when I thought of these last days of August, I imagined I would give my kids a one week pre-school practice session of waking up early to acclimate them to hours that occur before 8:00 a.m., but as of this minute, I ask, Would it really kill them if they stay up past 11:00 p.m.? Especially when it makes them sleep until 11:00 a.m. the next day?

I also have a legit excuse to shop till I drop because back to school and all. Shopping will kill at least a day this last week. Three days if I take each child separately. Who doesn't love alone time with mama standing outside Aeropostale's fitting room doors providing jeans feedback?

Same with back to school haircuts. I can knock out a few mornings that way, too. And you know, with three kids no need for all of us to go all at once. Let's consider the stylist, sheesh.

I can Sharpie line through through Thursday morning, afternoon and evening with shoe shopping, x3.

Yeah, I know what I said three months ago about Regular Show being not for kids here, but you know they're going to hear this stuff at school anyway, so might as well let them hear it at home first. If I see them pass out fall asleep on the sofa after last night's Regular Show marathon, do I really have to wake them up to brush their teeth and go to bed? That would be a no. Calcium is at an all time high in children's teeth, they can handle it. And if they fall asleep on the sofa with clothes on? Winner winner chicken dinner, they wake up dressed for the next day of marathon TV watching. They can start as soon as they find the remote.

I know, I know, that in June when I was bright eyed and full of hope and summertime plans, I fool-heartedly planned 30 minutes of screen time at a time, no more--but it's summer's end. Have at it, kids! Just be sure to get off if you begin to see haloes. And don't blame visual disturbances on low blood sugar (what can I say, my hypochondria has made my kids into mini-m.d.s) I've kept your blood sugar up with ice cream sandwiches all day long, so I really don't have to make meals. During this last week of August, it's solely about keeping any one of you from getting dizzy or falling over if you get up too fast.

All of this sounds bad, I am aware, but it's not like the end of August has made me give up, or surrender. It's more like me recognizing that in fact, I can arrive at my destination on just fumes. What matters is that we make it, chugging and sputtering on through to the last gasp of summer.
We may crawl in on a wheeze to get there, our fingertips grazing the white chalk by an inch, but we reach it. The glorious finish line.
Here's to every one of us, who will pass on the baton of care and deliver our children to the front steps of their schools come the last day of August.
Stand proud, my friends, once you catch your breath. And don't we miss them already?
* * *
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Is There Any Way in the World to Make Back to School Fun?

I don't know, but I try.

I do it, for the children.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

21 Things Kids Worry about on the First Day of School


If a new kid comes in and your friends like them more.

If somebody new is better than you in your special talent and they take your place.

If the new teachers are grumpy.

If your new teacher is strict.

If your new teacher is serious.

If you don't get in a class with your friends.

If you get homework right away the first day.

If the subjects will be too hard.

If your friends are totally going to act different than they were last year.

If your friends changed too much.

If your friend doesn't come back to the same school.

If on the first day you get in trouble for something you didn't do because your teacher doesn't know you.

If the seating arrangements are totally bananas bonkers dumb and I won't like where my desk is.

If you feel too old to hang out on the playground with the little kids.

If you have to play football at recess because everyone else is and so you have to.

If your clothes will be cool.

That my haircut will look too short.

That it will be too hard to sit all day.

That I will be embarrassed if our classroom will look childish to the upper school kids.

That there'll be a mean kid.

That I won't get my secret hope that a new super cool kid will come to our school and we'll be friends.

 *With thanks to the ever amazing eternally brilliant Erma Bombeck for her poem, *"Nothing to Worry About"

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