Category Archives: About Mom

What Laura Ingalls Wilder Taught a Modern Mom

If you haven’t read the Little House books and plan to, know that this post includes some spoilers.

“You know how Mary is always so good and just sits there?”

“Yeah because she’s blonde.”

“You remember that time they went to church and Laura wore Mary’s ribbons and Mary wore Laura’s?”

“Yeah because they were running late.”

Two little girls had just had a conversation about a Little House book in my kitchen. Not American Girl dolls they want or a TV show or a video game. A book.

I didn’t talk about books when I was a kid. When I was about nine, I attempted Little House and failed. I just couldn’t get into it. Over the past year and a half, my seven-year-old daughter and I read the series together. When we started Little House in the Big Woods, I honestly didn’t think we’d get through it. I thought my daughter would find it boring. But in the quiet of the evening, my daughter faced me and soaked it in, asking questions.

When we started Little House on the Prairie and the building of their new house is described in so much detail, I thought we wouldn’t go on, but at the end of each book my daughter couldn’t wait for the next. Neither could I. All I could think was that I was so happy I didn’t read these books when I was a girl. Reading them for the first time with my daughter has been a gift revealed page by page. We couldn’t wait to see what each night would bring. Would the wolves get into the house? Would Pa make it home? “Oh, Mom! You always stop at the good parts!”littlehouse

What’s the appeal of stories about a girl’s pioneer life from more than a century ago? Laura’s many chores, danger, and solitude on the quiet prairie with few toys and comforts is more like our childhoods than we think. After all, even then it was hard for a girl to listen and sit still.

And reading the books for the first time as an adult, the books shed some perspective on my modern life.

• The Ingalls family doesn’t have much. They can take everything they own and move from place to place in a covered wagon. My family has tons of stuff. Some of it fills me with joy but I dare guess how many covered wagons it would take to move all of our things. Wagon train, anyone?

• The Ingalls family fixes what is broken. Pa wears his patched boots to walk a hundred miles for work, saving the money for something else. I wouldn’t want Pa to see my closet full of shoes. For shame, Karen.

• Oh, that mean old Nellie Oleson! If there is one thing I learned while reading On the Banks of Plum Creek, it’s that there is always a mean girl.

• We don’t control blizzards, grasshopper weather, the outcome of our crops, or the effects of illness. The Ingalls family pushes through the cold winter, Pa finds work to make money since the grasshoppers ate their crops, and Mary accepts her blindness with dignity. No one falls to the floor in a fit, whines for pity, or sheds a tear when things go wrong. Let me be clear—there is no dignity in this house in the face of misfortune.

I know the books are historical fiction, but I also know Wilder included many facts in her books. I can’t help but think the emotion is part of that.

After reading about Laura’s life, her closeness with her family, it was hard to read about her last night at home before getting married. I remember my own last night at home when the realization sunk in that things would be different and I would take on new roles. It was hard to see Laura move on. I could barely read the words to my daughter. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” Every few words I paused so I wouldn’t burst into sobs. And then my daughter knew, it clicked, and she looked at me. Tears streamed down her cheeks and we wiped our tears and laughed. “I don’t ever want to leave you!” she cried. But I know she will one day. And that’s OK.

I’ll always have memories of this time together while my kids are young, reading to them, spending time with them. In Laura’s family, Pa plays the fiddle each night while everyone gathers round. In ours, we play games together or hang out. I guess family time is something that has stood the test of time.

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Road Test: What a Red Light Taught Me About Patience

I had passed my driving test long ago. Gone was the stress of when to merge into traffic, when to mash the brakes, and Mom’s horrified face as I backed onto the highway we lived on. Now I endured new driving lessons.

After the imminent death of my Ford Escort, a sleeker Toyota Corolla took its place. Dad and I had shopped for this one. It was the sunroof that sealed the deal. The only little snag was that I didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. I picked up the motions quickly after a few lessons, though I still managed the occasional spine-shifting grinding when I missed a gear. In no time I would be driving that baby around town: sunroof open, permed hair blowing in the wind, Edie Brickell tape blaring. When my dad took me out on the road for one last test, we realized he had forgotten something very important.

Life on the coast meant flat streets. No sledding hills. No grassy slopes to roll down in summertime. Just manmade overpasses and ramps. As we headed home after my road test, I stopped at a red light near the top of an overpass. I realized I didn’t know how to keep the car from rolling. Dad told me what to do but when the light turned green, I nearly rolled into the car behind me. I watched in my rearview mirror, helpless and screeching, “What do I do?!” as headlights grew closer. Horns honked. We jerked back and forth like a rodeo bull and the car stalled. My dad chuckled and I panicked. Cars sped around us. The light and my cheeks turned red. I would never get through this light. And worse, someone might see me! Anyone!

Again, the light turned green and again I tried to slowly lift my foot off the clutch and tap the gas, but we rolled back. The car jerked. I wanted to switch seats and let my father bail me out. He comfortably reclined in the passenger seat as if it were his own brown La-Z-Boy knock-off, urging me to stay calm. I could do this, he said.

But I couldn’t be calm. A look in my rearview mirror again revealed flashing blue lights. “Oh, no. I’m going to get a ticket,” I thought. But no officer ever approached my car. “He just knows I’m an idiot. What if I roll back into him?” After a few more tries and with what sounded like ten NASCAR engines, I finally gunned it through the light.

My dad immediately led me down the road to a less-traveled area, found a ramp, and let me practice until I got it right. It didn’t take long.

My dad seemed so cool and calm as I freaked out. We could have argued as I so often do now with my kids. He could have lost his patience with me as I easily do these days, trying to get my kids to see that they are capable. How come I didn’t get that sense of calm? I always punish myself for not being a more patient parent. Sometimes I get it right, but I think the truth has always been there: I’m the person I always was. Even more, at their core, my kids will probably always be who they are now.

Of course, it doesn’t mean I still can’t try to find that calm. I can take a breath, try again, and remember that maybe I am capable, as a parent, a driver, a person. Maybe Dad’s lesson reached far beyond the wheel.

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Facing My Fear, Two Feet Off the Ground

I don’t take risks, even with two feet planted firmly on the ground. I don’t stray far outside of my comfort zone, which doesn’t extend far beyond home. So when a friend invited my husband and me to a ropes course, I decided I needed a change. I would sign up and worry about panic later.

When I learned the ropes course was forty feet in the air, I tried not to think about it even though I have an extreme fear of heights. I once froze in the middle of a climbing net at a children’s museum, panic locking my ability to breathe or rationalize the fact I was wallowing in millions of germs.

When I admitted I was nervous about my upcoming adventure, my daughter couldn’t understand why. In her seven-year-old mind the ropes course looked like a midair playground. She never knew I was afraid of heights. Immediately she coached me.

“Mommy, you can do this! You have to do this!” she urged. “You always make me do stuff. You’re going to do this.”

Well now I had to do this. As I climbed the rope ladder up to the first platform and reality settled in, it was those words that kept my quivering legs going. Immediate panic overwhelmed me as I stood shaking at the top of the ladder.

I knew I actually might not do this. I could have driven an hour, paid my fee, and climbed that ladder only to turn around and say I can’t. While the other eleven people in the group moved on to different platforms, tightropes, and nets, I fought back tears and an urge to turn and hightail it through the woods.

It became a morning that wasn’t about teamwork. No one could make me do this but me. Could I cross nine squares floating in the sky like rocks in a stream? “Take one step. Just stand on that tiny square and see what it’s like,” I thought. “Good, now another.” I thought a lot of words I tell my kids not to say. I thought about my daughter and how I didn’t want to let her down. I had to do just one obstacle for her. I didn’t want to go home and say that I didn’t.

It’s embarrassing to stand forty feet high, wiping the one tear that got away, struggling with a lifetime of never taking chances. I didn’t think about getting to the other side or how I’d get down. I thought about taking the next step.

Walking these planks were about as hard as I'd imagine walking a pirate ship's plank to be.

Walking these planks were about as hard as I’d imagine walking a pirate ship’s plank to be.

It felt like hours, but I made it across. The only thing that kept me going after that was that I wanted to try the zip line, the way down from this madness. I had to go through two more obstacles to get there.

This little zipline wasn't so bad but getting to the pole at the other end and connecting my hooks to a safety wire caused great panic. Thankfully someone did that job for me. I hugged the pole.

This little zip line wasn’t so bad but getting to the pole at the other end and connecting my hooks to a safety wire caused great panic. Thankfully someone did that job for me. I hugged the pole.

This was tough but quick. Almost at the end!

This was tough but quick. You can’t see the fear on my face. Almost at the end!

Every muscle tense, my palms sweaty, my feet unsure, I did those too.

I knew the zip line would be quick. I wiped my palms, inched off the platform, and in one exhaustive scream, a release of fear, relief. For the first time all morning, I could laugh and breathe and say, “I did it.”

“At least you conquered your fear,” my husband said on the way home.

“Not really,” I said. Faced it maybe, but it still conquers me.

“Well at least you’ll know what to do if you’re ever in that situation again,” he said.

Fear caught in my throat. “My God,” I thought. “I hope I’m never in that situation again.”

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My Kids Caught Me Blogging

“What in the world? Mom!”

Uh-oh. I knew what she was talking about.

“Who left all of this stuff in my room?”

I constantly hound my kids to clean up after themselves and I forget to cover my tracks when I make a mess in their rooms. I had done a photo shoot for my blog and left Barbies all over my daughter’s floor. I do it all the time. I set up a scene, take some shots, and then download them to see if I got what I wanted. I don’t clean up until I know I’m done. Most of the time, I forget. I’ve left Lego Star Wars scenes out, dolls, robots. The kids must think I secretly play with their toys when they’re at school.

Princess Leia's gonna kick butt.

I left this scene out, but my son thought it was great. He didn’t ask many questions.

The kids know I have a blog and that I write about them. I don’t think they really know what that means, that anyone in the world can read it. I’ve explained it to my son without going into much detail. Though I think he and a friend once found the post I wrote on our laptop about the boys’ bathroom, and that must have been quite confusing. “Dude, why is your mom writing about the bathroom at school? Was she there?” “I don’t know, man. Totally weird.” I told him I write about being a mom and that sometimes I write about specific things, like how we read stories together at night or how he went on an overnight trip and it made me sad. He seems OK with that.

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows I don’t post pictures of my kids or share their names. It’s a challenge to write a mom blog and not do those things, but I knew from the start that I just couldn’t. My blog is actually about me, being a mom. It’s not about my kids or my husband. It’s about how I react to and handle what goes on in my family. I figure my audience can picture a couple of cute kids. So I take pictures of toys and props to go with my posts, and sometimes I get caught.

Barbie is an evil genius.

Barbie’s evil plan is in the works. My daughter thought I was nuts.

I’d love to show off my kids. They’re great. But the Internet can be a dangerous place for them. Every time I check my stats, I’m sickened by the searches that brought people to my site overnight: people looking for things that shouldn’t be done with six-year-olds, people looking for things that I don’t want even pictures of my kids to be associated with.

There’s a fine line to blogging, what I can and can’t write about. I try to keep my kids’ feelings in mind as I write about them. I try to choose moments that are relatable to others, things all kids do. Sometimes things happen in my family that are just too personal. I wouldn’t want my child to read it later and be crushed or embarrassed or to feel betrayed. I wouldn’t want a parent she knows to know her secrets. And I know I’ll still have a lot to be accountable for—for what I have shared, why I have more posts of one child than the other—when the kids are old enough to read my blog. But I hope my kids know that I’m trying to share this time through my eyes. Maybe they’ll realize that I do try every day with them, that every decision is hard. They’ll understand why I yelled or melted down or made them go to bed at 8 every night. Maybe they’ll see one day that this parenting thing is much harder than it looks. Hopefully they’ll see in every post that I love them.

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As a Mom, I’ve Had to Rethink Confidence

A friend of mine turned 40 a few months ago. Wanting to know what I have to look forward to, I joked and asked whether she felt any different. Of course she said no. You don’t go to bed 39 and wake up 40 feeling joint pain with a gray streak and crow’s feet. You’re still you. But she said something that stuck with me: “I don’t care as much about what people think of me.”

Those few little words sounded so liberating to me, not caring what other people think. It’s always been the one thing I could never get over. My whole life I’ve worried about looking stupid or incompetent in others’ eyes. I still worry sometimes about not being good enough or offending others. When she said that to me, I literally thought for a moment, “That’s an option? I can just not care?”

Though my tastes may change like a three-year-old switches best friends, my beliefs have mostly held strong. I just haven’t always backed them with confidence. Why wait till 40? For much of my life I was so swept up in what little Susie thought of my new shoes or what my college roommates thought of my music choices that it took me ages to figure out what I liked and to not just follow the crowd.

In fourth grade I picked out a bright green purse I wanted for Christmas. Everyone else liked pink and purple. My sister told me green meant I was horny. I didn’t even know what that meant until my aunt explained it. Ew. But I never carried that purse because I was too afraid people would make fun of me.

As a mom you want your kids to be proud of who they are. It’s important that you get out there and glow in your own sense of self. I struggled for a long time and finally started to figure it out. I bought vintage things because I liked them. But then motherhood came along and I realized I was being judged for more than my identity. I was being judged on virtue, competence, and so much more: not being able to nurse, having a child who is a picky eater, letting my kids read Harry Potter and listen to rock music. The list goes on.

So now I find myself teaching two kids that it’s OK to be yourself while I’m still trying to navigate the waters. Remarkably, it’s my kids who have taught me the most. Seeing them on the court despite their ability, watching them flaunt a Punky Brewster outfit, it gives me courage.

On a recent shopping trip, my daughter picked out a floor-sweeping dress covered with psychedelic flowers. I would never have the guts now—or thirty years ago—to wear something so eye-popping. My daughter jumped, squealed, and begged for it. I saw it as a waste of money, too long to wear to school, and feared she’d never have the courage to wear it. My husband told her if she wanted it, she could help pay for it. She did. She wears that dress every chance she gets.

My parenting will never please everyone. There will always be a mom who disagrees with my tactics, my conduct, my values, my shoes. But I’m learning to care less what she thinks. There are more important opinions to consider.

Having confidence means having a lot more fun.

Having confidence means having a lot more fun.

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The Thing About Grandparents and Their Magic

We all know it: that magic our grandparents possess. If you live far away, they want to see you the minute you roll into town. They want to squeeze the dickens out of you as much as possible to bank away until next time. As a kid, they offered up treats you didn’t get at home. For me it was a refrigerator drawer filled with all the flavors of Nehi at one grandmother’s house. I could pick an entire bottle for myself and burp grape delights all afternoon.

My other grandmother took my sister and me to the movies, smuggling in candy in her purse. Had we ever been caught, I can hear her signature “Oh, golly” as an excuse.

As a kid, the four-hour trip to her house was over some bridges and through the woods, along hilly, bouncy roads. My sister and I used to sit backward in our seats to get the full effect of the hills and giggle when our stomachs would drop. We’d get antsy after a couple of hours and fight if someone crossed the imaginary line dividing the middle of our Granada’s backseat. We’d argue. My dad would reach back, swatting at air as we giggled and scrunched up in our corners to avoid a smack on the leg.

“Are we there yet?” I’d ask every ten minutes. “It’s too cooooold in here,” I’d complain. Ten minutes later, “Daddy, can you turn the air on? I’m hot.”

After that eternal drive, nothing was better than walking into my Nanny’s kitchen, smelling the pot of whatever soup she had simmering. It didn’t matter what it was. It was always good.

My sister and I raced upstairs to our room. She always had a treat waiting for us, something small, a cheap dime-store toy, but it made us feel special perched on our pillows waiting to be opened and played with.

Nanny died this weekend. She was the last living grandparent I had.

Dealing with her death has been what you’d expect. Dealing with the fact that I no longer have grandparents has been another thing entirely. As a kid, I always thought my grandparents were old because they had gray hair. Frankly, they seemed old for a long time, but they were always around. I guess at some point I thought somebody always would be. Somewhere along the line, I guess I never realized that someday I wouldn’t have grandparents.

Sure they couldn’t always sit on the floor and play with me. My other grandmother didn’t even drive. When I went to her house, I sat in a rocking chair all day, got a certain education from the tabloids, and watched her “stories” with her. When she nodded off, I’d holler, “Meemaw!” and tell her to flick the three-inch ash of her cigarette into the ashtray. Then I’d wonder how she didn’t burn the place down when I wasn’t there.

My grandparents always made me feel special. I spent many weekends with Meemaw and Peepaw. They took me to diners for dinner and showed me off to the waitresses who knew them by name. They died twenty years ago, when I still had a lot of growing up to do.

Nanny cooked elaborate Thanksgiving feasts served on crystal, china, and silver. Entertaining was her specialty. She got to see my wedding, my family. We got to laugh about babies and nursing and naughty children.

The thing about grandparents is, there’s never a time when they don’t want to talk to you or when they don’t love you.

However old and gray in my child’s mind, nothing prepares you for a future with no grandparents. For now, I can only concentrate on letting my kids make memories with theirs.grandmother

Losing grandparents can be tough. While I may no longer require a picture book to get me through, they can be a great way to help kids cope with loss. Good friend Gina Farago’s The Yearning Tree and new friend Lynn Plourde’s Thank You, Grandpa are two books my family has for just such a time.

 

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A Mother’s Thanksgiving

As a mother, every day is Thanksgiving to me. I am grateful when my family walks out the door at their varying times every morning and we all come back together for the mad scramble that is dinner each night. Amidst the kids’ taunting, the whining about science fair projects, and me on the very brink of falling apart myself, I stop to take note that everyone came home in one piece. That alone makes it a good day.

As much as I nag about my son’s socks on the floor, I’m thankful they’re still size 2 and even more so that they’re still here, in my home. He’s only on my watch for so long.

I can’t stand to see the teeny, tiny trinkets that cover my daughter’s dresser, a housekeeping nightmare. So often I skip right over the menagerie and save the dusting for another week. Still I smile when I examine each one closely and remember how I would have wanted a half-inch glass turtle as a seven-year-old girl. One day curling irons and pictures of boys will replace them.

When my nine-year-old son asked when I planned to stop reading to him at bedtime, my heart dropped to my knees. It’s the time of day when we can still snuggle like we’ve done since he was young. We talk and giggle and for a few minutes, he has no show to put on for anyone. Toughness and independence left at the door, he enjoys our time together. I’m not ready for it to end, but that day will come soon. For now, I’m ever so grateful for each night that he doesn’t announce our ritual is over.

I’m grateful for a daughter who puts her brother in his place. She’ll be a tough girl who doesn’t take it from anybody. And he’ll be a better man for it.

I love starting my day with a chaotic send-off to school. And just when I think everyone is too busy for good-byes, my son always turns back, buries his head in my gut, and hugs me tight. Then my daughter squeezes me with the strength of a python and bolts out the door, skipping and jumping.

They’re not too old for me, not yet.

For every meal I silently bless and sprinkle with a bit of hope that everyone will eat it, for every afternoon that I am grateful I held myself together when both kids pulled my emotions in every direction, for every odd and scary health mystery that turns out to be gas or eczema, for every tear wiped, for every hug, for every kiss, for every loud howl of laughter, for every moment of quiet broken by shouts for me, I am so grateful every day of my life.

turkey

I have a feeling my thankful thoughts are different from this guy’s.

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Son’s Trip Benefits Worrying Mom

When I got the letter in May, my heart sank. I didn’t get a spot. I had wanted to chaperone the two-night field trip that my son would be taking this week. He admitted he couldn’t wait to go without me. My heart sank a little more. My baby, OK my oldest, was growing up. As much as I needed him to need me, he just didn’t.

I think mothers and fathers differ greatly in how much they worry about their kids. In some families maybe the dad does all the worrying. But I think there must be some balance. One parent has to worry so the other can have some sense of reason. The other can say, “It doesn’t matter how many hours you obsess over pajamas. He isn’t going to wear them.”

In our family, I am that worrier. For the past five months, I have worried about everything from my child falling off the mountain his class will be hiking on to not drinking enough water. In some sort of cruel, maternal way, I worry that my son will miss me.

I have lost sleep over things that could go wrong, causing migraines and stomach issues. The chaperones will keep an eye on my son. I know them. They are great parents, but they’re not me. But I have to trust my son and let him go. Despite a few jitters, he’s ready for this even if I’m not.

My son has always been the kind of kid who jumps into things when he’s ready and not a moment sooner. I try to remind him about all the things I won’t be able to when I’m not there—use your manners, change your underwear—but I shouldn’t overwhelm him. My gut says to back off. I know if he forgets, it’s not the end of the world. This independence will be good for him, boost his confidence. On the parenting scale of free-range to helicopter, I find I’m pushing myself more to the middle these days and this trip will benefit me too.camp gear

My husband will start to think about packing the bag days before. I have been thinking about it for two months, worrying about the best way to pack three outfits, sweatshirts, gloves, extra shoes, a pillow, a sleeping bag, sheet, and just extras in a way that my son can carry them from bus to lodge in one load. I’ve always been a planner.

I won’t be able to drop my son off at school the morning of the trip. Even though I’ve been preparing him for this independence, I haven’t really prepared myself. I can only put my brave face on for a short time before I turn back into Mom at the stroke of 7 a.m., and I don’t want him to see that: a quivering lip, me lingering for too long, turning back for just one more hug.

I’m proud of him. Some kids won’t go without their parents. He’s a little nervous, mostly excited. I know he’ll have a great time.

I’m embarrassed of me. I won’t sleep. I’ll worry every second. And when he gets off the bus brimming with details of the trip, I’ll tear up in relief. I’ll shed the worry like a heavy coat.

My months of worry will have been for nothing. But for both of us, it will have been a practice run for the many more times I’ll have to let him go.

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School Picture Day Captures the Awkwardness of Time

We, or I, picked out clothes last night. I sifted through stacks of T-shirts in my son’s dresser until I found something that didn’t have a picture of a Star Wars character on it. A Polo shirt would do nicely.

My daughter’s wardrobe proved easier: Dresses in many shades hung in a mad jumble in her closet. Brown with stripes would look good for fall.

School picture day is the one day a year I get to pick out clothes for my kids to wear. It’s an unwritten rule in this house. My day. So this morning my son put on his royal blue Diary of a Wimpy Kid T-shirt and threw on a white button-down over it. If he sits the right way, the words “Are You Ready to Rock?” show through his shirt, which will probably make him look washed out anyway. I didn’t feel like fighting it so early in the morning when everyone still had puffy eyes and bedhead. My daughter walked in wearing a charm necklace displaying giant baubles in a rainbow of colors and geometric shapes, sure to cast bright reflections in every direction. She adds her own touch to everything.

I will hate those pictures. I’ve just dished out $40 for pictures I will hate, at least for now. I buy school pictures every year and when they come home in my kids’ backpacks, I open them with fingers crossed, hoping this will be the year I love them. But no. My son’s hair has always been combed straight down over his forehead even though he wears it to the side. One year my daughter’s lips dried and curled up on her gums, disappeared entirely from the photo. My kids grimace, smirk, strain, or look like they can’t wait to get away from whomever stands on the other side of that camera. Just who do they send to take school pictures anyway?

It’s funny now to look back at the older pictures and say, “Oh yeah, that was the year you lost your front teeth,” or to my son, “That was the year you wanted long hair. Don’t try that again. It was a bush.” But 20 or 50 years from now, what will we think?

The thing is, when I look back at my own school pictures, they mark a passage of time, the same pose year after year. When you have them all together, nothing shows my transition from elementary school to middle school to high school better. Some pictures are cute, hideous, sad, but they are all me. They all mark my awkward progression through time. And as a mother, I really want that time line of my own kids for myself.

school pic

Muddled sixth-grade kid making her awkward way in 1986.

When the kids bring their school pictures home, I send them to family, put them in a scrapbook, and we wait. In ten years, those pictures with their tousled hair, missing teeth, giant baubles, and T-shirts will have documented more than I could have ever imagined. Maybe I’ll notice something I didn’t see before when I’m searching for something that I miss.

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The Reality of Adulthood Doesn’t Live Up to Childhood Dreams

I remember as a kid I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up, when I could do whatever I wanted. The future was a blank page, waiting for me to fill it with dreams, goals, and, more importantly, my own set of rules. I couldn’t wait to be my own boss and not have someone telling me to eat that despicable broccoli. The only way that tree with its overcooked stalk was going down was if I smothered it in cheese. As a grown-up? I wouldn’t even put it on my plate. Forget that, I didn’t even have to buy it.

My kids and I have the same battles: I tire of repeating myself. The kids act like I don’t know anything. Oh, I know a thing or two.

Then. When I was a kid, being a grown-up looked so cool. Grown-ups can wear whatever they want. No one raises their eyebrows when your shorts inch higher every year. No one makes you zip your coat when it’s cold out. You don’t have to hide the fact that you’re wearing eye shadow without permission because all the other seventh-grade girls’ eyelids and capris share the same pastel colors.

Now. I could wear whatever I want, but “mom clothes” was coined for a reason. Plunging necklines mean kids get a sneak peek at mom’s bra, a thickly padded curiosity.

Then. Having to go to bed when everyone else was still up just wasn’t fair. I could hear dishes clattering, voices chattering, and my God, the TV! What did they do at night, throw a party? Adults could do anything. Stuck in my twin bed with only a teddy bear as company, I dreamed of the day I could stay up all night. I would never be tired.

Now. I wish I were the one being read a story and tucked in every night, but clothes need to be washed and dried. Permission slips need to be signed. I fall onto the couch in exhaustion and just hope I can make it through one favorite TV show. Not exactly the all-nighters I dreamed about.

Then. I could fill my future with catalog dreams. I’d buy whatever I wanted: the coolest toys, the fastest car, a thousand Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

Now.The coolest toys happen to be a vacuum that works and an immersion blender. A van covered in crumbs and goo gets me here and there. And savings in the bank means more than any collection.

green food, yikes

Who put this green stuff in my food?

Then. Meat loaf, pork chops, green beans, peas. Blech. Why couldn’t we just eat ice cream and potato chips and brownies for dinner anyway? I swore I’d never, ever make meat loaf.

Now. Guess what? I make meat loaf. My kids hate it. It’s the circle of life or something. I even like mushrooms and avocado and other slimy things I gagged at as a child. My six-year-old self is watching and sticking out her tongue. Traitor.

Little did I know then that when you become a grown-up, you sometimes like vegetables. You pay for all that junk food with something called indigestion. Those clothes your mom wouldn’t let you wear? You gain the sense that no respectable girl would wear them. Staying up late? All day all you want to do is go to sleep for lack of energy. Little did I know when I was a kid that I had it good then.

My kids often say, “I don’t care.” They don’t care that they’ll be tired in the morning. They don’t care that vegetables will make them big and strong. They don’t care what anything costs because Christmas or grandparents will come soon enough. They don’t care that they’ll be cold when it’s 40 degrees out and they insisted on wearing shorts to school.

Some things need to be learned the hard way. I smile. I remember the way I saw the world too. And I know one day, they’ll see it the way I do.

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