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.
.
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.

It all started with church,
This idea of getting ready for Monday-
To try on a different approach
To first light morning chaos.

I’d become one of those people
Who write hymns to their crockpots and can tell you
Which days the children
Need gym clothes.

(I am also a person who knows
Anything
Can happen.
Just because I’ve located
My stockings and checked them for tears
Does not mean I believe
I have control
Over tomorrow
Or anything else,
For that matter.)

I head to the gym for
A swim, some sweat,
and some space
To reach and drop
Stretch and bend.
I think about summer.

Maybe next Sunday,
I’ll schedule a pedicure
to get ready for spring
Or my next time at yoga.
At least once a week
I find myself surrounded
By well groomed women
In two tone leggings
Doing down facing dog.
In position, I’m faced with
Feet that scream neglect
Even louder than my kids
When I suggest last week’s
Corned beef and cabbage for dinner.

This evening-
One extra load, one last check with each kid
Do you need pencils?
Do you need a ride?
Tell me now because
You are old enough to know
I have no idea
When your recital will be, except that it will probably happen between now
and the first week of May.

Let me know whether your first game is at home or away.
Tell me, or text me,
Then tell me, or text me again.
I don’t care you don’t want me to be there.
I’ll put on sunglasses,
Wear the other team’s colors
and probably show up twenty minutes
After it’s over.

Coffee is measured,
Fruit is sliced,
Clothes selected, inspected,
Heels lean in the hallway.

Lunch is tucked inside tupperware,
This is good.
It won’t go bad
When I forget it tomorrow.
The world won’t come to an end.

(I know this because
I’ve devoted most of my life
doing everything I can to avoid
getting ready for anything
and so far… well, look outside.
You know what i’m saying?)

I spent an hour an a half doing
Everything I do every morning
in about twenty minutes.

And I still haven’t brushed my damned teeth.

or had a drink

or read the Sunday paper.

I’m ready for Monday
Though I’m carrying a bit of a grudge.

I like now,
Sunday night,
the moments before the alarm.

I like now.

.

There were rides in the Cadillac, top down
Beatles loud on the radio.
After intense arguments
With my brother over
Who got to sit behind
Our father.

There were meandering walks on tree lined streets at the age of 15,
Giddy, stupid, and hungry
For bagels or cookies
but afraid
To go home.

I should have been home.
I should have worn shoes.
I should have followed everyone
else to college.

There was saying goodbye to my dad
For ten years.
There was speaking to my dad In the dark,
ten years after he died.

There were parties, so many parties.
There was takeout for dinner
On nights we weren’t picking at meals in restaurants
With cloth napkins served by waiters
We’d see later on
at the club.

I didn’t make choices,

I was along for the ride. In                                                                                                               between,
I slept like the dead in a
Bedroom cloaked by
Tightly closed, thick velvet
Curtains.

Then, came my son.
I didn’t choose him
any more
Than I chose anything else
In those days.

It took time
For me to make the transition.

For a long time, I was a daughter
Who mourned and drank
And wished she’d said goodbye
And I love you
While my father still knew who I was.

It took too long for me to
Step. The. Fuck. Up.

My dad has been gone
Forever.

I’m losing my son.

It seems like it was five minutes ago
I recognized I was his mother.

He’s known all along and
While he was waiting
For me,
he grew tired
And found
Ways to pass the time
On his way to becoming
A man.

I’m here now.

His shoes are in the hall.

His world is private,
On instagram
Riding shotgun or crouched in the backseat of an uber,
Or inside his dreams.

When I wake him up,
He always sounds surprised by my voice.

He used to cry
As easily
As some boys
Laughed at spongebob squarepants.
He doesn’t cry anymore.

I hear pop songs
About love
And I think of my son.

I want to tell him
Everything
But he’s
Already gone.

I wasted a long time
Waiting for a dead man
To speak.

The rest of my life
Belongs to the living.

When he comes home
I stay as close as I can,
Noting his tone,
Holding my cheek for a kiss,
Watching him as he moves
thru the kitchen and
Smears peanut butter on
bread.

Sometimes,
I don’t know him at all-
His voice belongs to a stranger.
When did he decide
he liked Pad Thai?
Extra spice, light on shrimp.

Once in a while, I see the smile or the way he holds his fork,
And I know to bring him milk
Or suggest he get some sleep.

It was easier,
In the days of
Gimlets versus Cosmos,
South End versus Brookline,
Backgammon or silly conversation.

But upstairs, right above my head,
There is a boy.
He is angry, sweet, and funny.

He calls me mom
even though
He believes with all his heart
I am an idiot
Who doesn’t understand a thing,
And tortures him by insisting
He put away his clothes.
He puts away his clothes.

I hope I am here
To witness
The best of him-
Which is going to be amazing.

My son, by age sixteen,
Has taught me more
Than everything I knew
Before him.

 

I read a poem

written by someone else’s daughter

About her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Judy spoke of her mother’s journey,

Of her need

To be let go.

She spoke of clocks, conversations, lunch round noon,

snow bout mid December,

and all the parts of life

that are defined

by knowing what is going on,

what has happened,

and what will likely happen next.

 

A million pieces of knowledge tether

Most of us,

To know the date most days.

Class is Wednesday night,

Colin plays on Saturday at nine fifteen,

I need to be at work by nine,

Katy’s birthday is coming in two weeks.

I am never sure what time it is, and sometimes

I think Wednesday’s Thursday, or I lose an hour or a week.

I’m not sick like her, or like you were.

 

When it took over,

your eyes were clouds,

your lips made shapes,

your tongue made sounds.

Your muddy eyes would take me in,

or the wall behind me,

or a angry nurse marchcing down the hall.

Your lips would purse, then open, close,

more like a fish

Than like a man.

You’d smile when I’d offer up

A cigarette

And smoke it

Unlit and upside down.

Your eyes were clouds,

They belonged inside a winter sky, not on a face,

but I never let them go.

I would

Bring you taboo cigarettes,

I would fix your shirt, wipe your chin

and when his mouth moved

I’d lean close.

I’d smell the spit, the sour breath, last week’s

applesauce, the sweat

And I would listen

Because I knew you

Would never leave without saying your goodbye.

You were a gentleman.

 

I never let my you go,

Not when you’d already left,

Not when you still looked at me

and knew my name,

Not in all those spaces

in between\

And afterwards

And now.

Don’t forget about the dog poop- I warned you  
If things got bad
And they got bad
There would be repercussions.
Scoop it, bag it, sneak it into the Starbucks dumpster.

And the dog.
Walk the dog- 
not around the block-
The pavement burns her paws,
Take her to the park.
It’s not soccer season yet,
Bring a bag in case someone sees.
Use it
Even if 
nobody’s watching.

Check the website for your summer work, 
Do it.

Email your coach,
Tell him what he wants to hear
and do that too.

Brush your teeth, 
Floss,
Don’t only eat food flavored 
Buffalo
Or from a bag
Or orange.

Respond to all the girls that sent you
Snapchats.

Be kind to everyone that asks to 
Follow you.
(I haven’t asked but I know
Better.)

I remind you 
to empty dishes, 
walk the dog,
Sweep a floor.

I don’t ask you
To follow or accept or friend me.

I keep our conversations about
The dishes in the sink.

I update you 
About what 
The world expects.

I text instead of call.

You talk to friends on FaceTime.
You laugh 
And ignore everybody else.

I read books, 
Solicit prayers from strangers,
And send you bullet points 
so what I need from you
Is clear 
And listed by
By priority.

-Call me.
-Do your homework.
-Clean the yard.

I check my phone
For your response
All night.

(Sent from my iPhone

which is well aware

The iPhone

to which the message

has been sent

Is currently quite busy.)

 

If I was to step way far to the back of the room, a big room and look at a painting of my life, my whole life-
There would be wrinkled toes and clenched fists, a brilliant green swimming pool littered with nicklels tossed as bribery to slip my face inside the water, my smile on the first day of school in the Simplicity pattern dress my mom sewed the night before. It fell around me like a gown, white and peach daisies, holding my brothers hand inside my own.
There would be Linda Weaver‘s impossibly long legs, tucked under her body while we lounged away the morning in our sleeping bag forts.
There would be birthday parties I wasn’t invited to, and flute music dancing across the canvas, all the way through.
School and homework led me to a lifelong love affair with procrastination,
I’d need to make room for a thousand assignments I started,
and even more space for all of the projects I wish I had begun.
There would be Mountain Lakes, and tan O’Sullivan girls, the Eveleth‘s kitchen ,
The Club would loom over a lake, you’d be able to smell the fried chicken from Sundays.There’d be an inch or two devoted to my red, white and blue sunfish and the time I took a boat out in a storm and didn’t tip. Everyone capsized that afternoon,
or maybe no one else went out that day.
There would be the bathroom at the Tourne,
 the floor would be littered with bottles of Colt 45.
There would be Oniko and Lisa, and a whole lot of boys. (Another canvas, another medium is needed for the boys of this life.)
There would be daddy saying goodbye outside of the Mountain lakes Club and again ten years later.
There was college, and nothing.
There was too much time in bathroom stalls, and not enough listening to the bands we were there to hear.
I love you, Rachel Cohen DeSario. Jeannette de Beauvoir and Paolo Palazzi-Xirinachs,
We’d be hiding in some smoke waiting for Paolo to move his turn in Scrabble. J and I’d be scowling, Paul would zipping Zima.
Fast forward, I’m running out of oil and it’s expensive- you’d see my babies.
My first, my boy, my Collie bear. He’d be high on a rock in back yard in Dorchester
Singing “Circle of Life” from Lion King.
He’d be fencing in gym class, catching snakes outside the pool, Staying awake worrying about where to sit at lunch,
Most of the time, he’d be holding a ball.
Next came Kate.
As an infant, she held onto me, for 2 years, she dangled or clung to wherever I had available flesh.
These days, she smells like milk, her blue eyes smile, her mind is a millions miles away.
When I call her back, she comes back. We hold hands, though these days, not when someone’s watching.
Someone’s always watching.
Blonde, fierce, smarter than all of us put together, Katy is the one in the middle. She speaks to all of us, for all of us.
I’d see the South Shore Y, Walden, Wollaston, Cape Cod, James Paul with a cocktail, a dented mini van, and most recently, Quincy college. Most days, I love to come to work.
In the corner, or behind a moonlit night from last September, you might see Colin, the Colin I will see tomorrow at breakfast. He’d look mad. You’d see me, reaching towards him, and his back, clenched, his fists, clenched.
You’d hesitate a moment at the scene
Then your eyes would take you back
to the sea of color surrounding
the two of us-
Lakes, city lights, bars, stadiums,
rocking chairs, tangled sheets,
Christmas trees and snowmen,
Mountains, oceans, miles of sand,
Stacks of books and record sleeves,
Kitchen tables, covered with platters and pitchers,
and wine and glasses of milk
Surrounded by chairs,
Filled with the people I love.
I am blessed. I am blessed even when I don’t know it.
It’s hard to see-
it’s impossible to step back when I’m bent over weeping
For all the things I don’t know
and all the things I think I know.
I need to find a way back to all the things I know.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to take a few steps to the back of a room,
get down on my knees, lift up my head,
Listen.
I have to find the right words for the prayers
and believe the quiet words
from deep inside my shaking heart.
I need to believe.
Everything’s going to be alright.
I need to step to the back of the room
and study the big, beautiful picture.

Here it is, the Friday of July 4th weekend. It’s raining. I’m home alone.

My fifteen year old son is at the mall. Instead of being happy he’s not in the woods, all I can think about is that he’s decided to expand his career as a juvenile delinquent to include shoplifting.

My twelve year old daughter is at a friend’s house. She knew I was staying home this evening to take care of some homework, so she made me dinner. Then she spoke with me at the dinner table. I call her my little miracle.

After explaining to me for the fourth time that nothing had happened at camp all day, and that she thinks we should never, ever discuss Donald Trump during a meal, she picked up my take home exam for Writing for Communications. It’s due on Tuesday, July 5th. Yup, the day after July 4th weekend. Did I mention it’s the Friday before July 4th weekend?

Tomorrow night, we are packing up and going to the woods for a week. We will have a cabin with four beds and an old fashioned grill, the kind that uses charcoal, by the front door. We will share an outhouse with the thirty other campers. We will keep our food in coolers that will swallow ice like it’s beer at a ball game. The perishable food will  get warm  quickly so I need to pack a lot of granola bars. And peanut butter. And bread.

That’s the thing. I need to pack.

My daughter pointed this out to me while she gazed with horror at my exam. It consists of about five different assignments to cover everything we discussed in class.  I need to transform four newspaper stories into thirty second radio spots. Next on the list is to explain what it takes to write a good proposal, and I’m pretty sure he’s not looking for something that would work on the Bachelor.  Before I’m done I need to create a cover letter as a person applying for job as a Student Employment Director. (I am not thrilled with the cover letter portion. I don’t want to be a student employment director, not even a little bit and I’m afraid my lack of enthusiasm will show.)

Did I mention it’s Saturday of July Fourth weekend and I don’t even know if I own a flashlight and we are going camping for a week?

For the grande finale, I need to write a complete story- not a partial story, a novel, a comic book, an article, a Facebook post, a tweet, or an epic poem- a complete story. It must contain the words mentor, autonomy, conflagration, enigmatic, pithy, contrarian and pedestrian. (I’m surprised he didn’t give us the option to turn it into a radio show, my professor does seem a bit partial to radio.)

I’ve been writing stories for a long time now, and I like to write them in my own voice. My own voice is not pithy. It is everything but pithy. This is why I stay away from Twitter and people that like to tell me to get to the point.

Let’s  take a look at enigmatic as a place to start. To be clear, I love enigmas. I love being around enigmatic people. They tend to lurk in shadows wearing mysterious cloaks or impeccably cut suits, have perfect eyebrows and great back stories they’ll share if they have enough expensive whiskey in their system. But enigmatic people aren’t really crazy about me. I’m not pithy enough and I can’t afford even cheap whiskey. Even if I could, I wouldn’t buy it. Cheap whiskey is kind of gross. So I don’t think even the kindest of enigmatic souls would give me enough material for  a whole story and since they make me nervous I don’t want to ask.

I might be able to write a story in my own voice about being a pedestrian or I could talk about the beginnings of a conflagration I found in Colin’s bedroom the other night.

I walk a lot of places, and have rather strong feelings about pedestrian rights.   I, as a pedestrian, have the right to cross into the middle of the street into oncoming traffic if a. I successfully make eye contact with the driver, b. it is either under thirty five degrees or over seventy degrees, fahrenheit, or c.) I am wearing heels higher than three quarters of an inch.

That would be a pretty unpopular story, even with me, because the majority of us are drivers most of the time. Walking out into oncoming traffic is pretty stupid. I wouldn’t make a very sympathetic narrator.

I can’t talk about the fact that at one thirty in the morning I was woken with a very strong feeling I was overseas in Amsterdam, I think. I dreamed I was perched on a bar stool in the middle of a bar that had been open without closing for business since 1987. As soon as it became clear I was actually in my basement in  Milton, Massachusetts, I crept upstairs to investigate.

My son was holding a pipe with a bowl big enough to fit a baby’s head. It was overflowing, a tiny bonfire of sorts, and he was lifting to his lips when I opened the door. Until he gets a little smarter, or a lot older, he hasn’t earned the right of anonymity in my stories, photographic absence from my Facebook page on the first day of school and allowing me twenty four access to his cell phone. “This is not the path to autonomy!” I whispered to my son and his friend. I didn’t want to wake up the dog. The smell of pot makes her chase her tail and bark at the rug. This would then wake my daughter who was sleeping with the dog.

Even though he hasn’t earned any rights to privacy, I’ll respect them anyway and leave that story out.

The word that really concerns me is contrarian. I have always defined myself as a pacifist, so I’m not really comfortable with the contrarian point of view, though I guess one could be contrary and peaceful at the same time.

My son might disagree, basing his opinion on my position on mobile devices. According to my son, every other teenager on the planet has their cell phone available at all times-while they are in the shower, during final exams, at Aunt Margie’s funeral.

I am also a party of one when I insist he put the phone inside the phone case. According to Colin, it shouldn’t matter that the device cost seven hundred dollars if the teenager has a strange and steadfast position about not needing a phone case. Other parents don’t make their teenagers use phone cases, ever. It wouldn’t bother other parents at all if they went out and spent thirty five dollars on a phone case the girl at the Verizon store with the really cool tattoos, pale pink hair and bubble gum heels recommended.

It bothers me.

Why did I believe this unusual expert in retail telecommunications? I believed her because I am firmly convinced that everyone in the world knows more about my son than I do.

I bet he would have bought and used the case if he’d gone to the Verizon store without me. He would have listened to her.

I bet he’s a pot smoking, rule breaking, dirty clothes under the bed hiding, community service avoiding teenager because he saw me jay walk so often when he was a child. Actually, I’d grab his hand and and drag him across the street, while he squeaked “Mom, shouldn’t we wait for the light?”

Next time I have the urge to parent someone, I’ll mentor a cat. I think it’s pretty safe to say most of them are already screwed up, or at least they are so enigmatic, no one will be able to tell if I do any damage.

I’ll visit the online Quincy Animal shelter after I write this story. I think I could  use a cat.

Did I mention I need to pack?

I’m a jaywalker and a procrastinator.

Considering that I was his role model, I’m lucky he’s nice to animals, does well in school and talks to me from time to time. He’ll even discuss politics over dinner.

 

 

My world was huge when I was in my twenties. I spent time in Boston, New York City and New Jersey, going from place to place, friend to friend, sofa to dorm room to home, with the ease of someone in their twenties. Boston had school and work, New York City was, well, New York City, and I had a boyfriend in New Jersey. I packed light, lost a lot of stuff, and borrowed even better stuff from the patient and/or clueless people in my life. I think I still have a cashmere sweater from my mom. She is neither patient, nor clueless, but she is unfailingly generous, and the color wasn’t good on her.I don’t know if she knows I have it. Please don’t tell her.

I got older, Boston became home. The boyfriend relocated to my apartment in Allston, we spent a lot of times at clubs in the city. Often, we would hire a cab to take us to Walden Pond when I missed the suburbs.There were frequent invitations to the Cape, I’m not sure why, neither of us was  particularly charming, attractive or well off. But we were happy to head out for a weekend with little or no notice, so I guess we were the people to call when a new people were needed, vacations can get boring when you’re spending time with the same people you have breakfast with all year.

In those days, I moved a lot. I liked to stay up late. I liked to invite my friends over to stay up late with me. Landlords don’t appreciate tenants that stay up late, especially on Monday and Tuesday nights, and have friends that are happy to join them for endless games of scrabble or alcohol fueled conversations about what we were going to do the next day, even though all of us knew the next day was going to start around five o’clock in the evening.

Within a year of settling in to a new place, I’d receive the eviction notice.  I lived in Allston, Brighton, Brookline, the South End, Bay Village, the South End, the Fenway, all within ten years. Finally I landed in  in Dorchester Ma, in a huge one bedroom owned by one of the friends that liked staying up late. I was living with a different boyfriend and running a profitable business from my apartment. I still went out two or three times a week to clubs or dives most nights, the cab fare was just a little more expensive.  I visited Block Island a couple of times a year, I talked to mom on the phone instead of visiting  NJ.

When the stick turned pink, and the proposal came, we drove up to NH to take our vows. We were going to get married outside. I was seven months pregnant; maybe I hoped I could hide my huge belly behind a tree. There were bugs. We got married in the foyer of the inn next to the reception desk. There was a family of five, just coming back from the lake, wrapped in wet towels, wearing flip flops, with the two youngest brandishing sand pails, that volunteered to be our witnesses. By the time the family was thru with the wedding cake- I had to offer them something and hadn’t even thought about a reception, the cake was gone. No slices for the freezer.

After child number two, we moved to Milton, a small town in Southern Massachusetts, right off the highway. Lots of woods, huge municipal swimming pool, good schools  and public transportation five minutes away from the town center. We drank the Koolaid and bought the house. My world, my big, big, world, became even smaller.

There were no last minute trips to the Cape or nights out at the club. Spur of the moment day adventures to Walden were few. Packing a bag for two small children to spend a day forty five minutes away at a pond  is more complicated than the packing I did when I was relocating to a different area code. Two cans of bug spray, three kinds of sun block, diapers, socks, extra socks, water, juice, hats, sun glasses, books, coloring books, books for me, change of clothes for all, wipes, snacks for him, snacks for her,  and Ativan for me. I think I miss packing for the lake less than the joy of car seats. If you don’t know, you might. Good luck.

I’ve lived in the big world, or at least a corner of it, in the Northeast part of the United States. Then I had kids, and my world shrunk to whatever space they occupied.

They are teenagers now. Now that they are older, I suppose I could expand my universe a bit, visit an old haunt, head to New Jersey for a weekend to see some high school friends, head to the City for a Broadway show.

The truth is I’m happy at home with just one, actually two, human glitches.  The teenagers are, quite often, here too. The space is cluttered with  chatter of youtube, the streaming of sound cloud, socks, (you can smell the stench in New Jersey) smudged plates and pizza crusts, unfamiliar voices that usually respond to whatever question or comment I make like they aren’t quite sure who I am or why I am bothering them, large and very florescent shoes, backpacks, hair products, cereal boxes, which must randomly distributed throughout the house so they will never, ever go hungry, even if they find themselves in a hallway,- sometimes there isn’t any room for me.

The Cape isn’t an option on a Monday night, I have work in the morning. Clubs are out. I don’t want have friends over at three am, I don’t know anyone anymore that likes to stay out until three am, and as I recall, things didn’t really get interesting until three am.

So when I need to escape, I pull on a yoga top and yoga pants. I wear the yoga pants because everyone wears yoga pants, I wear yoga tops because when you spend a lot of time touching your toes, or doing that downward dog thing yogis are so fond of, a yoga shirt stays on your body like a one piece one size too small. I wore a tee shirt once, and spent the entire class confronted with the fact that I need to eat less food, plank more, or buy a yoga top. I bought the top.

I actually have my own yoga mat. The fact it is the same yoga mat I started with about six years ago is a miracle. I lost Colin at Canobie Lake Park, I lose my parking card so often the sour face attendant gives me a high five when I hand it over. I have six different novelty key rings, with the trackers that make the funny noises in a drawer somewhere. If they ever turn up, I could probably play a song with them.

I go into class. I take off my shoes and silence my phone. I step on my mat. I sit on a block, ( why do you need to sit on a block you might ask? I don’t know, but everyone else sits on a block, so I sit on the block like the sheep that I am, see comment above about yoga pants,) We breathe and I wriggle a bit, on our blocks until the teacher begins.

We move through the poses, each time it’s different. The music changes,  I take classes in  vinyasa flow, meditative yoga, hot yoga, whatever is offered whenever I get there.

I listen to the teacher. I move my body. I arch my back, I lift my arms, I balance on one leg, I breathe.

I am at home inside the space of my mat. Even at the end of class, during savasana,  (time for muscles to process all the work is the party line, I just think it’s a power nap,) I am thinking about dinner, work tomorrow, if I will ever be able to support my entire body on my elbows, whether or not it’s worth it give up pasta, but I am not wondering where I want to be next.

I’m on the mat. There’s plenty of space for me and all that I am on a flat piece of blue rubber, slightly ridged, two feet by six feet, in Milton, Massachusetts.

It took me a long time to get here.

I said in my last post that I wouldn’t ramble on about my teenager, but the past few months, my heart has been filled with joy, grief, guilt, bliss, fury, love, hate, gratitude, mostly all within the span of five minutes .

I’ve had to spend a lot of time at the gym so that it didn’t explode. After two hours of yoga or weights or zumba or lateral x, or whatever strikes me as what I need that night, I’m spent. When I return home, I don’t have much to say about all this stuff that is going on in my life.

Some people sit in front of the screen and outline their workouts, but for me exercise  is just as much for my head as it is for my pecs.  Analyzing my time would defeat the purpose, which is to come home,  pet the dog and kiss a kid, (without wanting to kick the kid).

A lot of what’s been making me so overwhelmed is adjusting to life with teenagers.

I’ve sailed thru parenthood pretty smoothly up until last year, with some blips, (“what is that tone?” “Did you really just say that to me?”.)

Next thing that I remember happened around the fall after he turned twelve .We were on our way out, and I said, in my always cheerful, upbeat, patient, voice- “FIVE MINUTES!”.

Five minutes passed. “Excuse me, what’s going on?” I asked, cheerful still, maybe not upbeat really, but patient. I didn’t mind missing the beginning of zumba or not having time to stop for the coffee.

“I’m busy with something.” This statement  was delivered from behind a closed bathroom door.

What are you doing in there? “Is something wrong with your stomach?”  He didn’t sound sick. He just sounded like he was busy with something and really didn’t care if I missed zumba or had to drink dad’s leftover coffee or never got anywhere at all ever. At least until after he’d completed whatever mysterious business he had in that bathroom.

“SOMETHING! And nothing is wrong with my stomach. Nothing.”

“Okay, I didn’t want to this, but-   Five, four, three… three and a half… two… two and an eighth… ONE!”

“I’ll be down in a minute. I’m almost done. Calm yourself.” My son didn’t get flustered by the countdown that had worked before he knew what numbers were, ignored the countdown, and then told me to calm myself. Calmly.

It’s been downhill ever since.

Recently, he’s struggling with some mistakes that he made, and trying to figure out why, if he’s filled out three job applications he hasn’t gotten a job yet. At any given moment, he’s laughing with me at The Middle, leaning on my shoulder surrounded by broken glass, asking why he is who is, confused because none of  the neighbors he talked to at Christmas about potentially doing some yard work for them this spring, have come knocking at our door, worried about his latin grade, frantic to find the axe body spray and convinced I hid it, begging me for a ride, begging me to leave him where he is, reaching to hold my hand while we sing along to the Fray, explaining why knowing what the words mean to White Iverson isn’t really necessary to appreciate the song.


I wanted him home tonight. Tomorrow is the Mother’s Day March for Peace, we go with FirstParish Milton, we’ve gone every year. All day long, text, after text, call after call, he pled to be allowed to stay at his friends house.
We have to be at the church by eight am.


All day long, text after text, call after call, i threatened to pick him up now, pick him up at 10 pm, bring his bags to his friends house and let him finish the school year in Canton.

It’s been fun.

I cancelled Mother’s Day.

I just got word, he’s meeting me at the church at 8. He said I’m important in the world, but that I’m overestimating myself if I think I can cancel Mother’s Day just because I sleep better when he’s upstairs.

So it’s on.

I almost marched without my son tomorrow because I wanted the day to start the way it started last year and the year before that.

The times they are a changin’ and that’s not going to stop. Ever.

Happy Mother’s Day, to mothers, future mothers, and caregivers all.

It’s hard, but sometimes, I think I make it  even harder.

(Don’t tell him I said that.)

 

 

 

This is the last time, for a little while anyway, that I’m going to write about the struggles I’m having with my teenaged son. We are facing some serious times, and they’ve been weighing me down, a thousand pounds of grief and fear and misery.

Ever since you started the transition from boy to young man, I’ve been a little sad. I’ve been mourning the child that wanted me to throw a football  when we walked on the beach, and wishing I’d thrown the damned football. I remember staying up late, watching movies, road trips and radio wars. You and your sister must have played a thousand games of tag your it, racing around the first floor of our house, while I screamed at you to stop. The louder I yelled, the faster you ran, until we all ended up laughing, someone stubbed a toe,  got tired, or realized there was ice cream in the fridge.

While you’ve been making the awkward transition from boy to young man, I’m sure you’ve caught me looking at you like I wasn’t quite sure who you are. You’ve sensed that I’m not always that thrilled to see you, standing over me, talking to me in a voice that still seems a little unfamiliar. Have you seen me pick up the picture of you in your karate suit all three feet high, with the huge fake sword in your hand and the big toothy grin? Or noticed that your bath toys are still under the sink? For god’s sake, you’re fifteen. I have to let go of the damn rubber duck.

Now you’re facing real trouble. I’m not going to go into details here, they don’t really matter. Suffice it to say, the police were involved, you’ve been suspended from school for a week, and I don’t know where this is going to end up. You seem to know you need to make a change, or maybe you’ve resolved you need to get better at not getting caught. We’re still talking, but we don’t say much, really. You smile at me, or fold the laundry, or do some of your schoolwork and I fold like a schoolgirl. I can’t keep you home; it’s spring time. You’re home all day. But between five and nine, most nights, I don’t know where you are. The police have your phone. You check in, but half the time I think you are telling me what I want to hear.

This is what I want to say to you- I’m sorry that I’ve wasted so much time missing the boy you were and haven’t really gotten to know the person you are. Though I think you’d agree, it’s probably going to be a  few years before we really like each other again.

But that’s what I want. I want to have a chance to get to know the man you will become.

I know you will be funny, you make me laugh even when you’ve just made me so mad I want to spit and scream and use all that horrible language you throw around like candy on Halloween.

You’ll be kind. When I came home from another bad day at work, you told me to quit, that my employers weren’t appreciating me as much as I deserved. You volunteered to start packing your lunch. You are not a fan of bag lunches.

You will be a great cook. Your waffles are legendary. I hope you learn how to make something other than waffles, because you are not a fan of bag lunches and it’s going to be a while before you can afford to eat out every night.

You will be loyal and charming, empathetic and intelligent. Knowing you will make getting older not so bad. Knowing you will be one of the great joys of my life. It already is.

Even in these troubled times, you are the person that can lift me up quicker than anyone, except maybe Sophie. She’s a dog. She has the advantage of a tail.

So, if you noticed that maybe at times I was a little reluctant to appreciate who you are now, and a little nostalgic for days of sand buckets and sun block, I’m done with that.

I want you around for a long, long, long time. Be safe, even if you think you are going to live forever, be safe for me.

I really, really, like waffles.