Dealing

April 23, 2017

I’m the parent of a 13 and 16 year old.

It recently occurred to me how much time i waste looking at old snapshots of my kids, tripping down memory lane.

Every time i see Colin or Katy, anytime between the ages of two or ten, in a random picture, I grieve a little. The chubby, flushed cheeks. The easy smile for the camera. The giggle just below the surface, and the memory of the easy hugs, the non stop conversations at dinner, during which I would count the moments till they were in bed.

Then there is the time spent where I reminisce with other parents, friends, or any random tired strangers approximately my age standing in line at Target with a cart full of slim tampons or Axe body spray, about when we were young. There was no Instagram, pot was mostly worthless, porn was Playboy, and everybody played outside. In those days, teenagers didn’t spend all of their time looking at screens. while making really bad choices and posting pictures about the entire experience.

How much time have I wasted missing my own children, albeit the smaller, less complicated versions? Yes, preadolescence is really cute. Everybody under 12 looks adorable, especially to the people that met them as tiny, pink faced, noisy blobs of anger and insatiable demands, wearing silly tee shirts, tiny socks, and the most necessary underwear ever, diapers.

Even the tortured debates- karate or saxophone? Hip hop or girl scouts? Do they stay at the table till they have eaten at least three brussels sprouts or do they go to bed without ingesting anything with nutritional value at all so I can take a bath before Sex and The City? Even in the middle of these meaningful conversations in my  head,  I knew I was playing house.  My policy on vegetable consumption was as meaningful as the decision not to enforce the pants with zippers on holidays rule.

I’m sure both my kids have spotted the look on my face, peering at an earlier versions of them, in photographs carefully placed in CVS frames. They know I miss the days before pimples, charger wars, intelligent arguments that refuse to end because I say so. They can tell there are times when I see them as taller, paler imitations of my babies, my children.

Shame on me.

If I was so entranced with the early years, and not prepared to step aside to celebrate them in all the horrible glory of early adulthood, then I should have signed up to be a preschool teacher and skipped the rest.

As for the rest of it… yes, times have changed.

There is the internet. A million tv channels. Kids have their own damn phones and we don’t have to share one line.The porn is ruder than it ever was, I think, or it’s more easily available.

My kids are growing up and in the present, they can record everything stupid thing they do while the world watches.

I can mourn the way they were and the way things used to be or i can step up.

These changes, and the crazy stuff going on in the world, have given me a thousand opportunities to talk to the beautiful aliens across the kitchen table. They aren’t always in the mood, but sometimes bribery, in the form of expensive chocolate or a trip to an outlet store, works. Sometimes, they take their plates up to their rooms and the phrase ‘thousand opportunities’ seems as outdated as Mister Rogers and Peace on Earth. And sometimes we linger, night falls, our voices carry out over the radio. Sometimes, we listen, while the other one speaks.
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If I continue to wallow in old snapshots of tiny toddlers, or vague memories of simpler times when I had to cross the room to turn the channel, I’ll only be looking over my shoulder.

Chances are I’ll get hit by a train, a tangle of smelly laundry, a bag of hula hoops and sidewalk chalk, or a thousand pairs of outgrown cleats and basketball sneakers.

I’m better off looking forward- leaning into the hugs and the angry debates, ducking the garbage and ignoring the hormones, and looking ahead].

I’m scared to death and I can’t wait for what’s next.

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Yesterday it was explained to me that I am actually insane for insisting someone eat scrambled eggs and toast for dinner instead of frosted flakes.

Today, when I picked up the other one from after
school at 4:30- she reminded me about a band concert this evening, except I’d never heard about the concert in the first place.

After we established that- yes, there was going to be concert that every other family with a band loving child in Milton knew about, and my daughter really, really wanted to attend, the possibility was again mentioned that perhaps I’m losing my mind, because of course she would have mentioned it, I mean , Mooooom– (Mom, I have to wear black pants, a white button down shirt, and it has to be clean, mom, like real people’s clean, and I need socks, I forgot about the socks, and shoes, black shoes, and they have to be… )

All explained to me one hour before she was due at the high school to practice.

It was a lovely concert. I was introduced to the band director, had the chance to see some good friends. So many of the kids on the stage I’ve had the pleasure of being in the audience for- either a Celebration of Spring Chorale, or Holiday concert, or Easter Egg Hunt or Isn’t Our Town the Best Town in the Whole World Parade or The Annual Mother’s Day March for Peace .*

The music was unexpected, for me anyway. The different bands performed the works of modern composers. I heard hope, terror, joy, grief, got a glimpse of spring, with just the right touch of “Let it Go”. (I think it’s going to years and years before the fans of that song take the advice spelled out in the chorus.)

The two people the closest to me have told me that I am completely insane and totally losing my mind.

Either one of those two statements might have really pissed me off, except- well, they reached this consensus a long time ago, and somehow I still remember to pick someone up for practice and sign someone else’s test and I’m the only one that ever remembers to feed the dog.

And somehow, I don’t point these points out to them on an hourly basis.

But I am really happy listening to the band, I even plan to tape the recital. I love cheering for the team, whatever the season. “Go Team” is ok, as long as I don’t use any names. Or at least not his name.

It’s been a good day.

And tomorrow, there is nothing on my calendar. No one needs a ride. No one needs anything baked, or bought, or delivered or signed.

Tomorrow’s going to be great.

*At the annual Mother’s Day March for Peace, moms aren’t the audience, we are organizers and leaders, some of us sharing and spilling grief, some of us are there to listen, a lot of us sing. And while we march, everyone keeps an eye on the children, who tag along behind, or limp beside, sweaty sticky palms inside someone’s slightly bigger palm, or race ahead, carrying signs, calling to friends, not looking for us at all, (because they know we are somewhere). Pretty similar to all of the other special days, I guess, except our name is in the title. And for the record, dad’s are welcome.

I was driving to the grocery store this evening and went right by a playground. It was just after 7, dusk here in New England, windy and cloudy and warm. It was crowded; spring has been a long time coming and some of us are not quite convinced it’s here to stay.

And a thought came to me- My kids don’t go the playground with me anymore. Colin is 13, Katy is 10. They go to the park these days, all by themselves or in packs with other kids from the neighborhood.

I hadn’t even noticed the passing of playground days, and they are gone, along with mornings of helping them pick out their clothes for school and the Thursday night phone calls in search of a sitter.

I remembered our trips to Andrews Park. Katy would clutch my hand, which would then smell like peanut butter until I got home. Colin would race ahead, clutching a frisbee or a football or a backpack with snacks. I would juggle my phone and my iced coffee and a book, all while one of my hands was clenched inside Katy’s warm, smudgy grip.

When we got there, I swear, it took us twenty minutes at least, and Andrews is three blocks away, I’d find a bench and settle down with the book and the drink and the phone. I’d make nervous conversations with other mothers, who all seemed to know each other, while eyeing my kids to make sure they didn’t hijack the swings. I’d wish I’d brought wipes, or bottled water. I’d look at my phone and calculate how much longer we’d have to stay until I could safely give them the five minute warning. I’d wonder what was underneath all the sand in the sandbox, if that was even sand in the sandbox. I’d call someone, anyone at all who might pick up the phone, and wouldn’t mind helping me kill some time until I could safely check the time again. Finally, Katy would make me push her on the swing. Then Colin would make me throw him a ball, or shoot baskets, or teach him how to make a frisbee sail thru the air. And I’d wish I was just a little bit better at doing any of those things while looking around to make sure no one was watching. And they weren’t. Until whatever I was throwing hit someone in the head.

Today, I took Katy to SOWA, an open air market with food trucks and art galleries and one stand that had an entire display of 19 different kinds of cheese. Colin went with me last week to the Y, and we worked on the new Keiser equipment. I can’t get a basket, well I can, but it’s not that often, but I can work with him on strength training to help his jump shot. Next month, I’m going to take them to see Lion King, The Musical, which is a helluva lot more fun than watching the Disney video four times in the same afternoon, (not that we ever spent that much time in front of the tv.)

So tonight I was sad for a bit that the playground days are gone until I thought about it. Now, I’m mostly relieved. Though I’m thinking that for Mother’s Day, I might request a sentimental journey over to the swing set on Castle Island. And I will let Colin and Katy take turns pushing me.