When did I become this mom? The one who doesn’t know what’s cool anymore, who misuses “cool” phrases, and turns to her kids for tech support. I remember being pregnant with my oldest and envisioning that we would just kind of “hang” together. She seemed like she would be something between an accessory and a hobby…. kind of like knitting, but with greater potential later on. Then…she was born and she was this whole other separate person who made decisions on her own timetable about things like sleeping (or not), eating (or not), and pooping/crying/puking (for these, “not” seemed never to be an option.) It sunk in quickly that parenting was not at all like knitting, or hanging out with some cool mini-pal…if anything, it was more like trying to knit while running backwards on a treadmill while feeding a moody tiger with a sensitive palate.
Preschool years were probably my favorite, since these are the years that children like to do things beyond the basic bodily functions. I must have made metric ton of edible play dough, between all four of my little ones. That’s not counting the untold tons and tons of salt dough we made and baked off, for painting. I know they ate plenty of that, too. I pretended not to notice, as I knew it wouldn’t hurt them and that the saltiness would stop them before they could eat enough for it to be harmful. I saw my twin boys eat enough of everything else, including all the ink out of a fresh box of markers, my prenatal vitamins (never could figure that, since I could barely stand to choke them down, and there they were at age two, happily gobbling down these huge things that felt like rocks and tasted like the worst medicine. But the same kids wouldn’t eat anything except mac & cheese and hot dogs until they were 15.). They ate a ladybug and a wasp between the two of them; the wasp was dead, ladybug alive…at least at the start. Which is better than the other way round, for the wasp-eater’s sake. They ate more crayons than I think they ever colored with and if you’ve ever heard the saying about having to eat a peck o’dirt before you die? I do believe my boys were concerned about reaching an early grave, as they certainly ingested their respective peck each before their 3rd birthdays. Happy to say, at age16, that they seem to have simply overshot their goal.
I probably suffered more on the first day of school than any mom, ever. Ever. I don’t care about the ones that stayed all day, or the ones that cried right there on the playground. I suffered like a patient in the ER suffers from internal injuries: just because you can’t see what’s happening on the outside doesn’t mean that the victim isn’t dying on the inside. That is how I felt, and still feel, every year on the first day of school. It is a checking off on life’s calendar of another milestone. A moment I can’t get back with each of my children, yes, even in junior high or high school, now that they won’t let me take 1st day of school pictures anymore. Even when they would just as rather that they were done and gone, I would be just as happy to start all over again with each of them and pose them against a tree that will grow along with them in their pictures, and make sure they have a good lunch packed, even though I know now that they threw them away, or at least traded the gross stuff like apples and fruit cups for Twinkies and bags of chips. I would love imagining them in the cafeteria that somehow always smells slightly of rotting food, throwing parts of their lunch across the table to a kid who would take an apple for his chips.
This is a silly, crazy, unreal thing to write about. Kids grow up. It is a bell that can’t be unrung, and shouldn’t be. But when you are the parent of 4 teenagers, you live with nothing but reality. You live with sons who have gotten so comfortable kissing their girlfriends (what else, don’t want to know….had the talk…that’s all the reality I can suffer) that you see more tongue action in your front yard than in the movies you watch. Yeesh. Yeah, kids grow up I know, and want to move to cities like Chicago and talk not only about the school, but career opportunities there. And you have to start thinking about visiting Chicago for the holidays. Brrrr. And your kids start talking down to you, when you don’t understand something, or worse, forget something. And they use That Voice. The slow one that is super patient and understanding, for poor mom. Yeesh. I’m mid-40’s, not mid-80’s ya know.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want to grow old yet. I am sure I will suffer “Empty Nest Syndrome” although I don’t know what it really is, or what one does about it. It always sounded, well, like an old-person thing. I guess I need to work on avoiding becoming both. Not all people with grown kids are “Empty Nesters”…at least not in a bad way. And age is a state of mind. Heck, I could always make salt dough just for me to play with, and get out some of their other old art supplies. I’m pretty sure I can keep myself from sucking on the markers while I draw, or nibbling on the dough. But even if I do, I have living proof that it won’t kill me.
OK I have to tell you I haven't reached this point. I luckily have been able to offer my children tech support and when they went to school I threw a party and ate so much I threw up and napped in a puddle of vomit, soda, and finger nail polish. But I'm also the most uncommon mother ever to be known.
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