Monday, August 17, 2015

"So When You Aren't Mommying and Teaching What Do You Do?"

Interesting question posed by the mother of one of Lily's friends. I need to set the scene first. She is wearing an adorable red bikini that has explained to me covers up so much more than the one she wore in California. I of course think "What's less naked?" Reading my mind she explains that in California they practically sunbathe naked. I am wearing my size larger than last years "mom suit." I have to say, though this "mom suit" highlights my best summer asset, cleavage.

Usually, my pool time consists of my floppy polka dot hat (to prevent the freckles that where so cute in my twenties from becoming the age spots of my forties), some sort of awesome reading material (Brain Child Magazine, anyone? How about Redbook?), and just chilling. When I get too hot I do what I call the "Mama Hippo Wallow." I realize it isn't a flattering term, but I mean it literally. When I get hot, I take off my hat, use it to mark the place in whatever I am reading, climb slowly into the pool (oww, my knees), wade around and splash the kids, then end by floating on my back in the middle of the pool feeling weightless and ageless. Once I am cool enough, I get out and resume chilling.

Back to the other mother. She doesn't get to spend much time at the pool, so she asked if I wanted to join her on the other side where the rays have a better angel for tanning (I did not realize this was a thing.). She quickly apologized and told me she'd understand if I wanted to read my book. The reading material of the day was arguably the best book I'd read this summer, but it seemed rude to keep reading, AND I have vowed to put myself out there and meet new people.

Now back to the question. How do I answer? I spend copious amounts of time watching Netflicks and googling the answers to such pressing questions as "How to remove...stain?" "Which movie was" "The best comic book to movie adaptations" "ADHD parenting advice" "Which Pintrest crafts and recipes that I will never make can I pin?"

Or I could tell her that I read a lot and cross stitch a lot and just found out about adult coloring books. Instead I said I volunteer in advisory councils and Girl Scouts. Seriously, did I think this was a college interview? Did I think my hobbies were silly? Maybe. I think I mostly thought they were a tad bit slothish. Her hobbies? Working out and softball. I thought about telling her how excited I was to try going to a sip and paint or how I used to do yoga until I hurt my hand, my knee, my back, but the moment was past.

She talked about her divorce and asked me earnest questions about how I managed as a "child of divorce." She was sweet and pleasant. I, however suck at small talk. Mean while Lily was frantically sending me the family symbol for "Let's get the heck out of here! People are breathing my air!" I pretended to ignore her pointing at her imaginary watch and hooking her thumb towards the exit (of all the skills she could learn from Rob, this is it?). I put her off by ignoring her, knowing she wouldn't want to get out of the pool. After ten minutes she came over and in the loudest whisper in the world told me "I want to go home." She then proceeded to negotiate how soon we could go. Thanks to American Pickers, she is relentless.

Me "30 more minutes. You're being rude.
Her "Let's split it in the middle, 15 and I didn't ask to be here this long."
Me "Each round id 60 minutes, 30 is splitting it in the middle."

You get my drift. Man some days being a member of this family and trying to socialize is exhausting.

"Looks Like We're in for Nasty Weather"

I feel like there should be warning signs outside our door to let Rob know what sort of mood(s) he's walking into. You know, like the kind they put up at the beach to warn you about riptides? For example: Red Flag: wife can't zip her shorts, is in horrible mood and there is furious muttering, Blue Flag: youngest daughter frustrated by homework and there is crying, Orange Flag: oldest daughter planning event with friends and can't get everyone together and there is door slamming.

The estrogen in our house is bouncing all over the place. Right now we have a teenager, a tweenager, and a middle aged women approaching Peri-menopause. Translation: crying, stomping, snarking. Yesterday, I was ready to pull my hair out. It seemed like the only decision either girl could make was to snipe at each other or me. Right now? They are peacefully painting nails, and Lily just offered to let Caroline borrow her phone charger. I've heard life described as a roller coaster. Our life right now? A tsunami!

I understand where both girls are coming from (it is amazing the perspective that comes during a moment of calm). Lily, as I've said before, is in the in between phase. One minute she is playing dolls and watching cartoons, the next minute, she is listening to her i pod and putting on lip gloss (oh, and spilling nail polish on the rug as I type!). All of that internal conflict is bound to cause emotional upheavals.

Caroline is my daughter through and through. She wants everything in her world to be perfect and God help those who mess it up. I clearly remember being 17 and wanting things to be so perfect. I recall melting down in a store because I couldn't find a green prom gown. Caroline is so passionate about everything in her world. Sometimes that passion comes across as blind fury. She is so very excited about her Senior year. She is also so very worried. She second guesses herself around every corner. This week, the focus has been planning for Senior pictures. When I got mine taken, we had one choice: the drape. The hardest choice I had was which necklace to wear. Now? You are sent a glossy pamphlet crowing about how this is "your time!' "create your moment!" "bring props to show your true self!" What the heck!?! Do they know they are sending this to 17 year old girls? It is hard enough for them to decide what to eat for dinner. Now they have to choose their props? Outfits (to include jewelry and shoes)? They are 17, what the hell do they know about their true selves? I can't possibly begin to explain to her that moments aren't created, they just happen. The harder you try to create them, the more messed up they become.

Then there's me. I've heard tweens and teens compared to "terrible twos," but bigger. What the comparison fails to mention is that their mothers also enter a "terrible two" stage. Today, I found myself saying "If it is mine don't touch it because IT. IS. MINE!" Now, this was a legitimate response to going to look for my headphones for the 20th time this summer and `discovering that they had been appropriated by someone else. Nothing is mine anymore! My hairbrush, my scissors, my makeup, my headphones, my charger. I am already stressed and scattered and worried about someday becoming senile. Do you really think never being able to find something where I left it helps?

So the logical conclusion to all of this? Tidal waves of emotions. My best advice to anyone who crosses our paths? Batten down the hatches, grab a life vest, and hang on!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mother Hen

One of the many ideas that I considered as a second career was some sort of parent out reach. Not that I think I'm the perfect parent, far from it, but I do think young mothers need more of a sounding board. They need someone to listen without judgement. In past generations, our society lived close together or with extended families.Young mothers got the support they needed that way.

Well, as chance would have it, I have unofficially found myself with that job. I am surrounded by young mothers through work and my sister in law. It should not be surprising at all that I feel very protective of them. I had a few over for lunch this summer. It was so much fun to have my house full of babies and toddlers.

It was also so wonderful to be able to say time and time again "Your baby is perfect. Follow your instincts." and my favorite "No one goes to college wearing diapers, with a binky, sleeping in their parents' bed."

I had the hardest time as a young mother because everything seemed so life and death. "If you don't choose the right stroller, your child will have weak posture and end up with a hunched back." I'm exaggerating, but I'm sure anyone who has had a small child gets my drift. I felt so judged by my parenting choices. I leaned toward a modified attachment parent style. I didn't have a looking glass at the time that could show me that my girls wouldn't just survive, they'd thrive. I just went with my gut and beat myself up at night. Thank goodness the internet was new then. If I'd had all of the websites and snarky social media posts to navigate like these women do, I would have lost my mind.

Unfortunately, because we are living in a time of supposed transparency, people seem to think they have a say in your life. I also think people feel free to say things through the comment section that they would never say to your face. Although, one of my friends got face to face advice from a "well meaning" person at a restaurant. I am so glad I wasn't there. I have a feeling I would have had some suggestions for the advice. I am on the other end of motherhood. My girls are the proof that following what works for your family, well, works!

The internet has created one of my favorite parts of modern motherhood: the blog! There is an entire world out there full of bright, hysterical, fearless mothers. It is wonderful to know that you are not alone. But sometimes, you need that support from a face to face source. That's where I come in. I am going to be the Lorax of young mothers "I speak for the mommies." You'll find no judgement here. Only support.

Restless Creativity: Summer Style

There is no better way to describe my family than "restless creativity." My uncle coin the term when he was giving my grandmother's eulogy. It means exactly what it sounds like boundless ideas, bouncing from one thing to another. This summer it seems to have hit hardest during these last few weeks.

I woke up one morning and realized "Oh shoot! It's August and we haven't painted the deck, fixed the pantry, completed summer reading, practiced for SATs, finished the sewing project, completed the cross stitch for my new nephew.... What the heck did we do all summer? So here I am, instead of "all summer in a day", it's been all summer in three weeks.

We went to Rhode Island. I used the time to play with my camera and the girls used it to try surfing. We shopped in cute boutiques and I bought flowy dresses and artistic earrings (I'm going for a certain look here). We came home and I tried new recipes and posted pictures online (shake your head, I don't care, it was well received). We watched movies like it was our job. We painted pottery. I am currently taking a break from medicine, so I was super type A about it and can't wait to see how my mug turned out. Lily sewed a little owl and I started my cross stitch. We've looked at meteors and taken walks. My phone is buzzing like mad with people texting me "Quick we need to ....."

The odd thing is I am enjoying this. I don't feel any panic or sense of time running out. I almost feel inspired. I definitely feel motivated to try to keep doing fun creative things all year long.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cross Roads

I debated writing this post because I was afraid I would across as conceited or a self imposed type martyr, so I ask that you read this with that in mind.

For most of my teens and adulthood, I have been a safe haven at a cross roads. I am the person people go to when they are overwhelmed or hurting or lonely. My family has always "taken in strays," so it stand to reason that I would have cultivated the talent of rescuing people. If I were a food, I'd be mac and cheese. If I were a drink, I'd be hot tea with milk and sugar. In other words, I am comfort food. I am pretty good at listening and offering common sense advice. I am also good at recognizing people's strengths and boosting their confidence.

I really don't mind being a "safe haven," "solid object," "port in the storm." I especially don't mind it when it is for my girls or Rob. I don't mind when it is for my students. But here's the tricky part, for friends I fill a temporary need. Time and time again, I have had a friend come to me seeking support, advice, a place to stay. I have gladly helped. The problem is this is all temporary. I am not one to manage to keep friends for an extended period of time. I am emotional first aide. I take them in, "bandage" them up and then they are off on there way. At first I tried to pursue the relationship by inviting them over or out. It always seemed to fall flat.

I have learned my lesson. Don't be the pursuer, be the pursuee. Or better yet, let it roll off of your back when someone who seemed like a close friend drops off of the face of the Earth. I do get lonely when these relationships fade.

I have always been dependable and sensible. I find myself describing Caroline as sensible and kick myself. To me, sensible means you don't taken risks and most likely you put the needs of others before your own. Life is not a regency era novel. Rarely is there a reward at the end for being a "constant" person. True fact.

Stories That Are Not My Own

The reason I started the post about being stuck in a "rescuer" mode is because this life style often causes a blogging dilemma. My life is very often wrapped up in lives that I do not have the right to write about. I write or indicate so often that I am stressed or tired; I must seem like a person who is incapable of dealing with the world. Not true. I just can't explain what is going on. Maybe, when someone asks for help I should have them sign a disclaimer, allowing themselves to become part of my blog. Perhaps I think too much.

Right now my life is quite full of the girls and watching my friends raise their babies (I feel like some sort of fairy godmother. Maybe this is why my mother loved middle age so much. A chance to share wisdom when asked and watch people grow.) I am also in rescue/caretaker mode for others. But somehow, in all of this I have to find me. I spent my week of vacation problem solving via text and phone. I need to wean myself from swooping in and cleaning things up. This is not my job. I also spent a good deal of time telling others' stories.

I can't share private information about others (even if it keeps me awake at night and tints my life all day/every day). I really can't share much about the girls except updating newsy stuff. Lily is wise to the whole thing. I am now forbidden from telling baby stories about her to my friends with babies. "

"There's nothing worse than sitting there and hearing you tell the lipstick story from when I was two. I am ten now. I don't play with lipstick. What will they think of me?"  "Please do not tell stories about me during you little meetings." You get the drift. So do I.

I knew this day would come. I need to start creating my own stories.