They Call me The Gatekeeper

Parenting is a tricky bastard. It moves. It shifts. It misleads. As soon as you feel you’ve got a firm grasp on it, it turns to dust in your hands, blowing right through your over-confident fingers.

It leaves you frazzled. Wishing for a do-over. It makes a fool of you.

I have been a parent for only 12 years. Yet I recognize it for the nimble minx that it is.

When I think about the kind of parent I want to be, I picture a scene from a movie. Like Diane Keaton in The Family Stone. As loving as she is loved. Filled with compassion and joy. She radiates in the company of her husband and children.The dinner table scene? It gets me. Every. Time. It. Gets. Me.

But life isn’t like a movie. The dinner table at my house is more like a scene from Animal House than The Family Stone. There’s nothing romantic about a family dinner. Real life is a bunch of rowdy kids around a table making fart noises in their armpits. They say things like, “your meatloaf is disgusting,” and, “When’s Dad going to be home, he’s more fun than you,” and “I never remember what happened at school, who do you always ask,” and “I hate everyday Math”.

Oh…wait, that last statement was mine.

Have you ever seen Bridesmaids? Remember the part when Rita talks about her 3 boys?

Well, we’re almost there. Actually, we may even be there, but I may be a little bit in denial. The disgusting part has arrived, uninvited, on my doorstep. The scent that filled my home and defined my first decade of parenting is now gone.

Not a trace of baby powder left.

Armpits whizzing past me smell like hoagies.

Sneakers left by the front door stink like roadkill that has been left to bake in the sun for days.

Showers are taking FOR.EV.ER.

When I pick through the piles of dirty laundry to locate and wash the totally overpriced and quite frankly butt-ugly Nike Elite socks that are all the rage among middle school boys, I find washcloths. Oy. Doth my nose detect a waft of shampoo when the boys emerge from the shower? It does not. I don’t want to know what’s happening in there. I don’t need to know what’s happening in there. That’s why God put doors on bathrooms. To keep some mystery in the house. If my boys could be a little less European about how frequently they shampoo, I’d be super jazzed.

I’m saying things I never thought I’d have to say aloud. Things like, “I think it’s a bad idea to be naked in the same room with the cat.”

And, “Please remove your nose from your brother’s butt cheeks. You’ll smell that fart soon enough.”

And, “Dancing on the breakfast table naked sure looks like fun. But swinging your man jewels around like that is considered inappropriate in most circles. Also, I don’t really want your penis near my avocado smoothie.”

Did you grow up watching The Cosby Show? Remember when Heathcliff Huxtable would threaten his kids, “I brought you into this world, and I’ll take you out”?

And your parents would laugh, and you’d think, “I don’t get it. Mom and Dad are laughing. I’m supposed to be laughing, so I’ll laugh, but I don’t get it.”

We’re officially there. And, son of a bitch four times over, I get it.

Indeed. I get it.

There are no prize-winning scripts in parenting. It’s just you, your children, and the great unexpected.

What will they do?

And what, pray tell, will you say in reply?

Just last week, I sat across the dinner table from Waldorf and said things to him I never imagined I’d say to my child.

“Listen to me, and listen to me good,” I hissed, jabbing my finger in his direction to hammer my point home.

“You are acting like a colossal dick. Your attitude is crap. You had better turn it around, or when your father gets home from work, he will fucking JACK you.”

Say what? Jack you? Like car jack you? And how big is the difference between acting like a regular dick and acting like a colossal dick? Is it measurable?

But I was on a roll. And there’s no stopping Mom when she’s on a roll…

“Look at my face,” I said. “I am The Gatekeeper. Every decision that is made in this house must come through me. If you don’t change your attitude immediately, I will remove everything fun from your life. I can do that. Because I am The Gatekeeper. And I control all the things. The fun things. And the not fun things…all the things. I control them all…”

In all of the Hollywood inspired visions I’ve had of myself as a mother, I never once fantasized about cursing my oldest son out. Or threatening him physically on behalf of my husband. And I especially didn’t picture myself reaching into the depths of 1984 to channel a character played in Ghostbusters.

Does Diane Keaton do that? No she does not.

Apparently, I do.

I’m a little worried about this new phase of parenting we’re entering in my house.

We haven’t even hit driving yet.

Or sexting.

Or driving while sexting.

One thing is for sure. This parenting gig is hard. It’s nothing like the way they portray it in the movies.

I know this. Because…

I’m just a girl.

Standing in front of four boys.

Asking them to pee with some precision.

How’s my Summer?

Well, it’s week 5 of summer and I am…

“No, you cannot play the iPad.”

It’s week 5 of summer, and I’m having a hard time…

“Because it’s 6:15 in the morning. It’s too early to play the iPad.”

Where was I? Oh, right. Here we are. Week 5 of summer, and I’m finding…

“Say the word iPad again and you will lose electronics for the entire week.”

It’s week 5 of summer, and I haven’t hit my stride. I keep waiting to…

“No snack right now.”

Sorry. What was I saying? Hitting my stride, right. I keep waiting to settle into…

“You just ate breakfast. That’s why.”

So, I haven’t settled into any sort of…

“Oreos are not a snack.”

We haven’t settled into any sort of routine. And it’s making…

“Please stop hiding behind doors and scaring your brothers.”

The lack of routine is starting to make me feel like…

“No, it’s not funny. Not for anyone but you. That makes it a bad joke.”

The lack of routine is making me feel like I’m losing my mind. I keep thinking…

“Please stop making those fart noises at the breakfast table.”

What was I saying again? I’m losing my mind. Right. I keep thinking that I will hit my…

“Because farting and fart noises are bad manners. I am raising you to have good manners.”

Every time I think that I’ve hit my stride, something happens to make… `

“I don’t know if Dad’s farts are loud because he eats green beans. I do know that I asked you to stop talking about farts at the breakfast table.”

Let me try this again. I’m a silver linings…

“Please don’t hiss at your brother.”

I’m a silver linings kinda girl. And when I say…

“Please don’t bark at your brother.”

At least, I consider myself a silver linings kinda…

“Put down the baton right now.”

I like to think of myself as a silver linings kinda girl. The type of…

“Put down the baton. And please put your pants back on.”

The type of person who looks for the best…

“Thank you for putting down the baton. You may not go outside onto the trampoline.”

What I mean when I say silver linings is I try to see the best in…

“Not until you put on underwear.”

To find the best in situations. To seek out…

“Because it’s against the law to be naked outside. And jail is not a fun place.”

Sure, I vent to…

“I think it’s OK to be naked outside in Europe. Just not in America.”

What was I saying? Venting. Right. Naturally, I vent to my girl…

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

I vent to my girlfriends. But, for the most part…

“If lava was on your foot, it would burn you. Yes.”

For the most part, I try to find the silver lining in every situation. And…

“You don’t have to worry about lava on your foot.”

I try to see the silver lining in every situation. And I look for the best in people. At least I hope…

“Because we don’t live close to any volcanoes. That’s why.”

I hope that I am that type of person. The kind who brings a smile…

“I don’t know what would happen if you had no toes.”

What the fuck was I saying? Do I make people smile? I hope that…

“You wouldn’t die if you had no toes. But you would probably have a hard time walking because toes help with our balance.”

Did I finish my silver linings thought? Goddamn, I can’t even finish one…

“Maybe. Maybe you would die if you had no toes, couldn’t keep your balance, fell off a high ladder, and landed on your head. Maybe you would die.”

Can I finish one bloody thought, for crying out loud? Just one fucking thought is all I’m…

“OK, fine. You would die. You would die if you had no toes.”

Howsmysummer

Oh, fuck it.

“Boys, have you all forgotten?”

There is no silver lining.

“Santa is watching.”

I am in hell.

“What do you mean you think I’m Santa?”

How many more days until school starts?

I Should Have Gone to Five Guys…

“You know when it’s been so long since you’ve exercised that you’ll make every excuse not to? And all you can think about is a burger from 5 Guys? Yep. That.”

I posted that on my Facebook page last Saturday morning. And I meant every word.

We are deep into M-A-Y. Growing up, it was my favorite month. The azaleas bloom hot pink, the bedroom windows stay open all night, we are a handful of days away from summer vacation, and my birthday kicks off the month in celebratory fashion.

Now that I’m a parent, I recognize May for what it is. The month of allergies, field trips, party planning, permission slips, and track meets that overlap with lacrosse games.

5guys

In May, I did this…

3rd grade mother/son overnight camping trip

3rd grade mother/son overnight camping trip

this…

5th Grade Reading Olympics Competition

5th Grade Reading Olympics Competition

this…

Boychoir Rumpelstiltskin performance. Unfortunately, yes, the ax is ours.

Boy choir Rumpelstiltskin performance. Unfortunately, yes, the ax is ours.

this…

Mother's Day Tea

Mother’s Day Tea

this…

Ringing Rocks field trip. Boys + Hammers + Boulders = Perfection

Ringing Rocks field trip. Boys + Hammers + Boulders = Perfection

this…

Meet Chuck, our newest family member. Acquired Family Night at the Book Fair.

Meet Chuck, our newest family member. Acquired Family Night at the Book Fair.

this…

Our 4th and final Pre-K Ocean Show

Our 4th and final Pre-K Ocean Show

I also made it to the school’s Imagineering Lab to see the Kenyan’s robotics project. And I enjoyed both performances of the 2nd and 3rd grade chorus. I have no photographic evidence of these events. But I was present.

Every single ounce of it was awesome. I cried happy tears like a gazillion times. I cried right smack in the middle of the 3rd grade campfire in front of the Kenyan, his hunky teacher, his entire class, and their Moms. So that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

But, so help me Jesus, the May calendar with children makes it near impossible to sleep, shower, or exercise.

Which is how I found myself fantasizing about a burger from 5 Guys at 10AM on Saturday morning.

But I’m a clever girl.

I realize 5 Guys doesn’t sell burgers until 11AM.

I have time to spare.

I may as well do a kettlebell workout.

B&B is with the Kenyan at a track meet. Waldorf relaxes on the sofa with Minecraft. The Interrogator and the Verb are engaged in Lego play. So, I set myself up in my home gym. Which is code for my family room. Where Waldorf is chillaxin and the younger two are throwing Legos. I shove puzzle pieces and toys under the sofa. Then push the four laundry baskets containing clean, folded clothes against the wall. Pop in a kettlebell DVD. And put on my iPod.

The first song is a Rihanna tune. I skip to the next song. Also a Rihanna song. Skip ahead again. Rihanna once more.

Mother of pearl.

B&B has been using my iPod again.

I suffer through 40 minutes of kettlebells. Which, though challenging, is easier to endure than 40 minutes of Rihanna.

I should go directly upstairs to shower. But I know we have that new jump rope out back, and maybe I’ll give it a whirl while I’m warmed up. And by jump rope, I mean nautical rope that is both heavy enough and thick enough to secure a cruise ship to a port of call.

B&B is in the throes of a gardening project and, for some ungodly reason, a giant, clear, plastic tarp hangs from the ceiling of our covered patio. I sigh and drag the heavy rope to a spot that I hope is clear of the plastic sheeting. Fingers crossed.

And ONE ROTATION,

OOOOOF!

And TWO ROTATIONS,

This mother fucker is HEAVY!

And THREE ROTATIONS,

OW, my wrists!

And FOUR ROTATIONS,

CAN’T BREATHE!

And FIVE ROTATIONS,

FUCK THIS.

And SIX ROTATIONS,

I’M BAILING!

My right foot lands on the rope…which is the approximate width of an elephant’s thigh…and my ankle rolls. I gasp in pain and land in a heap on the ground. Tangled in B&B’s plastic garden sheeting.

So I am on crutches for the rest of this bastard month.

I can’t say I’m  enjoying my new status as a You Tube phenom.

My video debut

I should have gone to Five Guys.

Top Dog

“Let’s play wrestle!” he yells, his tiny body assuming an aggressive stance.

“Let me take my coat off first so that..” before I can finish my sentence, my youngest son has wrapped all four of his appendages around my leg. He holds on with a vise-like grip.

“AHA! I’m Iron Man, and I’ve got you now! You’ll never escape me!”

I walk to the closet, dragging my right leg…said 4 year old child attached to it…behind me as I hang up my coat.

***

“That’s it. I’m done,” he announces as he tosses his sneakers one at a time into the laundry room. He’s just returned home from playing basketball. His face is a mask of anger.

“Uh oh. What happened?” I ask my husband.

“I’m done. I’m so frustrated playing with these guys. Nobody takes the game to the level I need to play at in order to enjoy it. It’s a total waste of time for me.”

“Why is that?”

“Who knows? They play like a bunch of old men! Maybe they’re afraid to get hurt or something. I’d rather never step foot on the court again than compromise the way I play.”

***

“Want to play Scrabble?” my husband asks.

I answer quickly, “With you? No.”

“How about Boggle?” he suggests.

“You against me?” I shake my head,  “Nope.”

He’s annoyed. “Come on. Why not?”

“Because I hate to lose. And you always beat me. At Scrabble. And Boggle. That’s why not.”

***

“This is ridiculous,” he scoffs.

“Stop talking. I’m trying to watch Survivor. Save it for the commercials,” I chide my spouse.

“I wouldn’t be talking if this competition weren’t so absurd.”

I sigh and pause the TV. Thank God for DVR. “Why do you say that?”

He gesticulates wildly towards the TV, “It’s ridiculous that they can’t swallow a grasshopper faster than that! It’s a grasshopper! Just shove it in your mouth and swallow it down! What’s the big deal?”

Calmly, I reply, “I wouldn’t eat the grasshopper. Even if it meant I’d win the reward. And the reward is chocolate. And I love chocolate. I still wouldn’t eat the grasshopper.”

His chest inflates, “I guarantee I would eat that grasshopper. Not only that, I’d eat it faster than anybody on the show could eat it.”

Oh, here we go. “Would you eat it faster than any contestant on any reality show ever consumed any grasshopper?”

He nods assuredly. “It’s true. You know it’s true.”

***

“Nice race,” he heaves, catching his breath.

“You too,” I reply, matching my husband’s effort to steady my ragged breathing.

He nods behind him, “I took a wrong turn and ran farther than I should have.”

“I was wondering why I crossed the finish line before you did.”

Because that never happens. Even when he’s pushing 100 lbs of combined weight belonging to our youngest two kids, whom he pushed the entire race in the double jogging stroller.

He offers his hand, “Come on, let’s go over and see how everyone else did.”

I wave him off, “I think I’m going to stay here, thanks.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t walk.”

“Are your legs beat?” he asks.

“I hurt my foot,” I point to the underside of my right foot, searching for the invisible knife  responsible for the searing pain.

“What happened?”

I shake my head, “I wore my racing flats. No arch support. I should have eased my way into them. Never should have raced in them today.”

He winces, “Did you first feel it when you crossed the finish line?”

I smile. “Nope. I felt it a mile in.”

“Why did you keep on running? You should have dropped out!”

I shrug. “Quitting was not an option. After all, I had all of these strangers to impress.”

He nods, “All of these people you’ll never see again for the rest of your life?”

Perfectly serious, I answer, “Exactly. I didn’t want them to think I’m a quitter. Because I’m not.”

He places his hands on his hips and smiles down at me, “Well, I’m sure they’re all very impressed by your effort. I know I am. Now let’s get you a pair of crutches. Non-quitter.”

***

“I’ll take pop culture for 600, Alex.”

Alex Trebek announces, “Alright, you’ve chosen the Daily Double!”

B&B yells at the Jeopardy contestant on TV, “Make it a true Daily Double! Bet it all!”

I holler at the same TV contestant , “Don’t listen to him! Bet ½! Maybe less than ½!”

He turns to me, incredulous, “What?! She should bet it all!”

I frown, “If she bets it all and gets the question wrong, she’ll have nothing. If she plays it safe, she’s still in the game.”

He raises his eyebrows, “If she bets it all and gets the question right, she takes the lead. Better to bet it all and take the lead.”

“Nope. Better to play it safe and stay in the game.”

***

“We need to discuss this,” he balances the kids’ dirty plates on his forearms and follows me to the sink.

“Now?” I ask.

“Yes, now!” My husband is nothing if not persistent.

I sigh, placing my hands on the counter. “OK, what do you want to know?”

“What do you want done with your body when you die?”

The Interrogator gasps audibly, “Mom, you’re gonna die?”

I place my arm around his bony shoulders, “No, honey, I’m not gonna die. Not today.”

B&B turns to our 6 year old son, “We’re all going to die. Probably not tonight. Don’t worry about this, buddy, Mommy and Daddy are just talking.”

I whisper to my husband, “Can we talk about it after he goes to bed?”

He shakes his head, “Now.” Persistent.

“I want to be cremated,” I reply.

He nods. “Well, you better tell your family that.”

“OK, I will.”

“Now,” he adds.

“Why now?”

“Because what if you die tomorrow? If I tell them you want to be cremated they may not believe me. They’ll know it’s true if you tell them yourself.”

I nod, “OK.”

He nods, “OK. So tell them.”

“I will.”

“Now!”

Jesus Christmas.

“Alright. Calm down. I’ll tell them.”

Now I’ve gone and poked the bear…

“Don’t tell me to calm down! You know I hate when people tell me to calm down!”

***

“Hey, Mom, you have to come over here and play this game with us!”

I walk over to stand next to my oldest son, who is almost shoulder to shoulder with me. He is watching his father play a game on the iPad.

I peek over Waldorf’s shoulder. B&B is tapping out a pattern on the game’s 4 different pie-shaped colors…blue, red, yellow, green.  Recognition sets in, and I laugh immediately. “Is that Simon? The memory game?”

B&B looks up to meet my eye. His laughter echoes mine. “Yes! Do you remember this?”

I nod, “I loved that game when I was young! Can I have a turn?”

Waldorf nods, “Sure! It’s Dad’s turn now. Then my turn. Then yours.”

We watch B&B race to match Simon’s pattern.

“Slow down, dude. Just get the pattern right,” I say.

Waldorf shakes his head, “No, he’s right to go fast. You get more points for speed.”

Now B&B looks at Waldorf. Two sets of eyes alight with the excitement of this additional pressure.  Deflated, I watch their delight.

“I’m out,” I announce. And I retreat back into the kitchen, where the dirty dishes await.

***

Are you confused yet?

I’ve just finished reading a galley of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, written by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  And I found it fascinating.

topdog

I began this book with a slight sense of dread.  Last year, I read Bronson’s and Merryman’s Nurture Shock, which resulted in a near nervous breakdown after realizing B&B and I needed a complete parenting style overhaul. Waldorf and the Kenyan will likely need extensive therapy as a result of our abrupt shift. The Interrogator and the Verb stand a fighting chance of turning out half decent. (Want to know if your parenting style needs revamping? Read this excerpt from Nurture Shock, which appeared in NY Magazine.)

As I read Top Dog, each of the above scenarios popped into my head in reference to different points made in the book. The research the authors compiled helped me understand the reasons why my husband, sons, and I behaved the way we did in each of these examples.

  • The youngest child often has the most fight in him. “Let’s play wrestle” is my youngest son’s most often used expression.
  • When competing, men often focus on what they will win. This often leads to overconfidence. May I present…my husband.
  • Women refuse to waste time with losing. Which is why I no longer play Scrabble and Boggle with my husband, who wipes the floor with my rear end in both games. Even though I’m the alleged wordsmith in the marriage. Self-proclaimed wordsmith.
  • I pushed through a race (like a fool), running the risk of further injury, because there were spectators watching. I was running, which is something I train for, enjoy, and typically do well. Had I been trying something new, like tennis, their presence would have increased my stress level enough for me to quit.
Hey, what's this? Look who took 1st place in her age group at that race!

Hey, what’s this? Look who took 1st place in her age group at that race!

  • B&B fits the book’s classification of a warrior, which means he needs stress to perform his best. One of the worst things I can encourage him to do is to “calm down”. That’s going to take some work on my part. Dammit.
  • Men risk a greater percentage of their money when answering a Daily Double in Jeopardy than women do. *Side note, B&B always yells “Make it a true Daily Double!”
  • Additional stress within a competition makes men less emotional and more calculated. While it can create too much stress for women. This explains why B&B and Waldorf rose to the occasion to compete in a timed game of Simon, and I willingly chose to wash dishes.

In every chapter of Top Dog, I was able to identify instances in my everyday life to which the psychology behind winning and losing applies.

And don’t think I didn’t bust out a ruler to measure the lengths of each of our index fingers and compare them to the lengths of each of our ring fingers. But you’ll have to read the book to understand why…

Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing is available on February 19th. Po Bronson will be speaking at SCH Academy in Chestnut Hill, PA, at 7:00 PM on Wednesday, February 20th. The event is free and open to the public.

I look forward to meeting him. I’ve almost forgiven him for my near nervous breakdown after reading his last book.

Almost.

***

Our This Is Childhood series continues today with the fabulous Allison Tate’s take on Age Five. Allison is the rock star responsible for writing The Mom Stays in the Picture. Her writing elicits such emotion in me. And the pictures that accompany This is Five are priceless.

Next week, I’m tackling Age Six.

Gulp.

If You Ask a Mom to Meditate…

ifyouaskamomtomeditate

If you ask a Mom to meditate…

She’ll have to close her eyes.

If she closes her eyes, she’ll be at risk of falling asleep.

If she falls asleep, everyone will see her drool.

So, once she closes her eyes, she’ll have to find a way to distract herself from falling asleep.

Before she’ll have a chance to start thinking, a song will pop into her head. It will be that Taylor Swift song, “WeeeeeEEEEE are never, ever, ever getting back together”.

And she’ll think it’s a catchy tune.

But then she’ll feel sorry for the boy Taylor is singing about because he must feel like Alanis Morissette’s muse right about now.

She’ll want to get that song out of her head, so she’ll clear her mind in an effort to meditate.

But she’ll be sweating. Not because it’s 89 degrees in the room. Because she won’t be able to get Homeland off her mind.

She’ll want Nicholas Brody to be a good guy.

She’ll think about how Brody and Carrie click.

She’ll kinda want Brody to end up with Carrie.

She’ll wonder, Is that so bad?

Then she’ll think that maybe Claire Danes isn’t really acting.

And she’ll wonder if Claire Danes is really just a little bit crazy in real life.

Thinking about Claire Danes’ complicated character in Homeland will make her worry about her sons falling in love with batshit crazy girls, and how falling in love with a batshit crazy girl could ruin their lives.

Thinking about batshit crazy girls will remind her of a line from another song…that Ne-Yo song, “Let me love you until you learn to love yourself.”

And then she’ll think about how sweet a song that is…in sentiment.

But she’ll know in reality that bitch he is singing about is straight up cray-cray.

She’ll wish she could tell Ne-Yo to run away from that crazy broad. She’d say, “Ne-Yo, if she doesn’t love herself, she’ll never love you.”

She’ll want to make a note to explain that to her two older sons when that song comes on again. She’ll know she won’t remember it if she doesn’t write it down or chant it.

But she’ll be unable to write it down, because she’ll be trying to meditate in hot yoga.

And she won’t want to chant it because chanting about Ne-Yo falling for a girl who doesn’t love herself will sabotage the entire yoga class for her.

So she’ll try to think of a way to remember to tell her boys.

While trying to come up with a strategy for remembering, she will become keenly aware that she no longer has feeling in her right ankle.

She’ll probably think it’s because 38 year old Moms of four don’t typically sit Indian style criss-cross applesauce for longer than two minutes a pop.

She’ll hear one of the girls in the row behind her shift her position, and she’ll feel that they are kindred spirits, quietly losing feeling in their extremities together.

She’ll send that stranger behind her a silent, telepathic Namaste for making her feel like she’s not alone in her pins and needles experience.

Thinking about having no feeling in her right ankle will prompt her to think about the two toes on her left foot that go numb when she runs in the cold.

Thinking about running in the cold will make her smile, because she’ll inevitably think about the coveted one-on-one time she gets with her sweet second son, who runs cross country.

Thinking about cross country will trigger the memory that she has volunteered to make orzo with roasted vegetables for his team banquet on Monday night.

Thinking about orzo with roasted vegetables will make her picture her crisper drawer in her mind.

And she won’t see any bell peppers in there.

She’ll wish she could write that down too.

But she’ll be unable to, because she’s supposed to be meditating.

Thinking about writing down bell peppers will make her think about Christmas lists.

And thinking about Christmas lists will stress her out.

Because she has 4 kids, and Christmas will be expensive.

She will really wonder what to get her 11 year old son because he’s at an in-between age.

She is seriously considering the Kindle Fire, but then she’ll wonder if he should have internet access.

Thinking about her 11 year old having internet access will make her think about the phone call she got from his teacher because he Googled “the spinning wheel of death” on his school laptop.

She’ll remember that he explained it to her as that thing that pops up when you’re waiting for a website to load.

She’ll remember feeling a sense of relief that he hasn’t Googled porn on his school laptop. Yet.

Then she’ll recollect how she got up on her soapbox at the school meeting with the IT people telling them that her 11 year old son has no fear on the computer.

She’ll remember that she went on to tell everyone in that meeting that Google is a verb in her house, and she’s worried her son will Google anything. And that maybe he shouldn’t have a laptop.

And then she’ll think, Well, I kinda called that one, didn’t I?

So, that will settle that, and she’ll decide her son certainly doesn’t need a Kindle Fire.

But then she’ll remember that movie quote, “If we don’t start trusting our children, how will they ever become trustworthy?”

Thinking about that movie quote and how it applies to her children will give her a lump in her throat.

She’ll think about what a beautiful lesson that is…and that maybe it’s time to show that 11 year old boy that we trust him.

She’ll feel like she’s maybe going to cry…and she would almost rather fall asleep and drool in yoga class than cry in yoga class.

So, she’ll try to distract herself from that quote by thinking.

She’ll think, What movie was that quote from?

Speaking of movies, she’ll think, when will I get to see Breaking Dawn Part 2?

She’ll think about how part of her is dying to see it, but another part wants to hold off.

Because once she sees it, she’ll think, it will be over.

Not wanting it to be over will remind her of reading the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

She’ll remember devouring the series night after night in her bed.

Then she’ll remember sitting in her backyard, feeling the warmth of the summer sun on her legs and hearing the sound of her tears hitting the open pages of the last chapter of the book.

She’ll remember how she slowed down to savor the last chapter because she knew it would soon be over.

Thinking about slowing down to savor things will remind her of when she was young and the way her brother always saved one of his Christmas presents to open up after everyone else had finished opening theirs.

And speaking of Christmas presents, she’ll think, where should we put the tree this year?

She’ll think about how she prefers to put it in the living room. She’ll think about how much she loves to see it from the window as she pulls out of the driveway.

But then, she’ll think, only if they boys agree to white lights.

She’ll remember that last year the Christmas tree was in the family room.

Then she’ll remember that the boys insisted on colored lights on last year’s tree in the family room.

She’ll remember how it was a shit show of a tree, and that they hung all of their homemade ornaments on it to junk it up even more.

Thinking about last year’s ugly tree will make her remember her favorite Christmas tree…the tree she and her husband bought for their first Christmas together in their tiny apartment.

She’ll remember her sister coming over to that apartment to watch movies, drink wine, and string popcorn and cranberries for that perfect tree. She’ll remember how fragrant it smelled and how beautiful it looked, with its popcorn and pine scents and beautiful, twinkling, white lights.

That will make her wonder if she could string popcorn and cranberries this year.

Then she’ll realize that, if her two young sons don’t eat the popcorn every time she leaves the room, the cats certainly will.

Thinking about the cats and the Christmas tree will remind her that last year the cats liked climbing the trunk of that ugly tree with the handmade ornaments and the colored lights.

Thinking about those colored lights will remind her that she really prefers white lights on the Christmas tree.

Then she’ll wonder when her husband will want to string the lights up outside the house.

Thinking about her husband putting up the outside lights will remind her of the time he brought their oldest son onto the roof with him to hang the lights.

Remembering the sight of her oldest son on the roof of the house alongside her husband will make her think about how she wanted to call her husband a moron and a jackass from the driveway.

She’ll remember how she struggled to maintain her composure and not show their son how stupid that stunt was by giving his Dad a come to Jesus right there in the driveway.

Remembering that rooftop incident will make her worry about whether her husband has their oldest son on the roof now while she is at yoga.

The thought of her son on the roof will stress her out.

She won’t be happy about feeling stressed out because she’s supposed to be meditating.

But she’ll be incapable of meditating.

And it’ll be her husband’s fault that she’s unable to meditate because he’s probably having a roof party with their first baby right now!!

Then she’ll hear the fidgeting of the guy two people away from her. And she’ll hear him breathing.

Hearing his breathing will remind her to breathe, which has become a good strategy for calming her down.

She will count 1-2-3-4 on her inhale, then she’ll pause and count 1-2-3-4 on her exhale.

She will do this a few more times.

Then she’ll relax and send him a secret, telepathic Namaste, because it was his fidgeting that distracted her from her stress. And his breathing that reminded her to breathe.

Then she’ll think, since she’s already sent two people a secret, telepathic Namaste, she should probably just send everyone in the class a secret, telepathic Namaste.

She will quietly give herself mad props because she’s had her eyes closed for 10 minutes in the middle of the afternoon in a room that feels like a sauna and she hasn’t fallen asleep.

She’ll think about how grateful she is that she’s taken this time for herself, and that maybe she should try this more often.

And, chances are, that Mom will want to meditate again.

 

On Election Day

electionday

“Don’t touch anything, children. Do you understand me?”

In unison, “Yes.”

Older Brother, Little Sister, and I huddle close to Mom as she closes the curtain behind us.

Older Brother: “What are we doing here?”

Mom: “I am voting. That’s what we’re doing here.”

Little Sister: “Voting for who?”

Mom: “Voting for President of the United States of America.”

Me: “Who are you voting for?”

Mom: “That is none of your goddamn business, young lady.”

Me, eyes downcast: “Sorry, Mom.”

***

And so it went 30 years ago.

***

Waldorf: “Is our guy going to win?”

Kenyan: “I hope so! Hang on…whose side are we on?”

Me: “What are you boys talking about?”

Waldorf: “President. We’re talking about the election.”

Kenyan: “Yeah, most of my friends want that guy to win.”

Waldorf: “Mine too! Is that who we want? Or do we want the other guy?”

Waldorf continues: “We should want the guy John wants…his Mom is really smart. She has a real job, not like you, Mom. She gets dressed up and goes to work.”

Kenyan: “Oh, she must be way smart. No offense, Mom.”

Waldorf: “But John’s Dad is not as smart as Daddy. Cuz Daddy got a perfect score on the math part of his SAT’s.”

Kenyan: “I know! Wait, what are SAT’s?”

Waldorf: “They’re a test. You have to take them to get into college. You need a good score to go to a good college. And you need a great score to go to an Ivy League college.”

Interrogator: “I’m not going to college. I’m living with Mom. Cuz I love her.”

I smile. My sweetest boy.

Interrogator: “And she’s beautiful.”

Is it any wonder?

Waldorf: “Oh, God, you can’t say that about Mom. She’s our Mom. She can’t be beautiful.”

Me: “Or smart. I can’t be smart either.”

Waldorf: “Right.”

Kenyan: “Whoever we want, I hope our team wins.”

Waldorf: “So, who are we voting for?”

I know this is a teaching moment.

So why do I feel compelled to say, “None of your goddamn business”?

One of the greatest things about this country is that I have the right to cast my vote. I have a voice. I get a say. I have the opportunity to support who I believe will be the better of the two choices to lead our country for the next four years.

But damn these election years. The political talk is everywhere. And. So. Are. My. Children. Tempers run high. Adults speak uncensored…probably more freely than appropriate…and often within earshot of kids. If my young sons and all of their friends were forced to wear earmuffs, my job as a parent would be so much easier.

I grew up watching Family Ties. I had a mad crush on Alex P. Keaton. I loved the way he argued so passionately with his parents over politics.  Not necessarily because of what he argued, but because of how he argued. I envision my kids growing up with voices. We are raising them to educate themselves, formulate opinions, and speak their minds proudly.

Once they’ve had some life experiences. Until then, it’s meaningless rhetoric.

Right now, my kids are parrots. And so are most of their friends. They think their parents’ word is gold. They think we know everything. They believe us infallible.

I’m still working on teaching my older sons to use their utensils properly. And to place their napkins on their laps during mealtime. And to use those napkins (and not their sleeves) to wipe their mouths. My 6 year old just mastered skipping. My 4 year old can barely get through the day without an afternoon snooze. The only debates taking place at my dinner table are over who wants butter on his noodles and who prefers sauce.

So the election issues…these abstract concepts are difficult for my kids to grasp…and possibly more difficult to explain.

  • Ideology
  • Democrat
  • Republican
  • Independent
  • individual interests
  • party interests
  • conservative
  • liberal
  • non-partisan
  • fiscal
  • unemployment
  • equal pay for equal work
  • don’t ask/don’t tell
  • gay marriage
  • Roe v Wade
  • gun control

We stumble through an explanation. Personally, I struggle to keep the passion and anger and fight out of my voice. Because these issues are ones I feel passionately about…the ones I get angry over…the things I’m willing to fight for. I pause a great deal…searching for the words that will not color their naive view of our world…remembering that the points of view of the adults in their lives may be in direct contrast with one another. I choose my words with precision. Because, at this age, my children are parrots. Because they think we can do no wrong. Because they have years before they realize that some of the adults in this world have more growing up to do than their 10 year old peers do.

Me: “Now, you have to decide which issues are most important to you. Then, figure out which of these two gentleman will better represent your interests. Who makes your issues a priority?”

Waldorf: “I know what’s important to you and Daddy…you’re always telling us blah, blah, blah…”

Me: “Well, I’m glad you’re listening to us.”

Kenyan: “So, does that mean you are voting for this guy?”

We nod.

Waldorf: “Then, what does the other guy stand for?”

B&B: “He stands for this, this, and this.”

Kenyan: “So, he stands against those 3 things that are so important?”

We nod again.

Waldorf: “Who would vote for him?”

B&B: “John’s parents. And many of your other friends’ parents.”

Waldorf: “WHAT?”

Kenyan: “No way!”

Me: “Those 3 things are so important to Daddy and me. And they’re probably important to John’s parents. But not quite as important as these other 2 things are to them.”

Waldorf: “Hmmm.”

Me: “Make sense?”

Kenyan, eyes narrowed: “Yes. But I don’t like it.”

Nor do I, little man.

When they are a little bit older, when they’ve experienced more of life…after they’ve witnessed the sting of prejudice, after they’ve heard silence from a piggy bank that once rattled full of coins, after they befriend a girl who believes she has a right to make choices concerning her body and befriend another girl who believes that she gives up that right once she is pregnant…that’s when they will know more about the men they’re destined to become. Their life experiences will bring clarity to their convictions. That’s when I hope we’ll sit around our dinner table. It is then that I’ll remove my Mom hat. I’ll finally speak to them about these subjects with the passion, anger, and fight that I feel. Years from now I will speak uncensored.

Until then, I have to reign it in. Caution them not to judge. Remove the urgency and exasperation from my voice. Dumb down the adult stuff and attempt to spin it into something remotely relevant for these little sponges.

I’m eager for the election to be over. I’m tired of the lawn signs. The debates stressed me out. The phonecalls drive me batty. I press mute when the commercials run. I roll my eyes at the FB likes. SNL is at its best during the election years. And many Americans are at their worst.

In the wake of the strongest storm ever to hit the East Coast with another storm close on its heels…as the November nights grow cold and so many are still without homes and even more without power, as the residents of New York and New Jersey wait on line for gas for hours, before rebuilding has even begun…there is a bigger takeaway than this election.

Over the weekend, Entergy Louisiana drove into my neighborhood to help those still without power. They came all the way from Louisiana. To ease PECO’s workload. And to help my neighbors.

“Remember those trucks that lined our neighborhood on Saturday? Those men and women came all the way from Louisiana. To help us. They left their families. Forget about the election. Remember that they came all the way from Louisiana to help us. That, gentlemen, is what this country is about.”

I’m lucky I have a vote. On election day, I will exercise that vote.

Want to know who I’m voting for?

Come on…

It’s none of your goddamn business;-)

 

 

Couldn’t Chaperon the Field Trip? Here’s What You Missed…

chaperon

The Interrogator is in kindergarten. With 29 other boys. I volunteered to chaperon their field trip to an apple orchard last week. Below is a list of things we parent chaperones said during the 5 hour excursion…

Sit down. On your bottom.

Sit. Down.

Hands to yourself.

Face forward, guys.

No head butting the seat in front of you.

No punching the seat in front of you.

No kicking the seat in front of you.

We’ve been driving for about 20 minutes. Funny, it feels like hours to me.

Oh, we don’t kiss our friends at school.

We don’t kiss our friends on a field trip either.

Please save the kisses for home.

Don’t lay on him, please. I know you’re not asleep. Because you’re talking to me, that’s how I know.

I wonder if they sell spiked apple cider at this orchard. I hope so.

Put down the hay.

Stop throwing the hay.

Keep. Your. Hands. Out. Of. The. Hay.

Now you have hay in your eyes? Oh, dear. That hurts, doesn’t it. Have you ever heard of karma?

Try to cough into your arm. No, not into my arm. Into your arm.

Here, honey, I have a tissue. You can use it to wipe your…oh, OK. So you wiped it on your shoulder instead. Very good.

You may pick 6 apples.

Nope. You can’t pick 10 apples.

No, you cannot pick 20 apples. Because you can pick 6 apples.

6 apples! Lalalalalalalalalalala! What’s that? I can’t hear you asking for more apples! Lalalalalalalalalala!

Please don’t pick an apple off the tree and then throw it on the ground.

You didn’t “drop it”. I watched you throw it. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Oh. Yes. I. Did.

Please stop kicking apples.

Ouch! I said please stop kicking apples.

Look at my face. If you kick another apple at me, I’m telling your parents. How do you like them apples?

You have to poop? Awesome.

When I said we’re not going to do face painting today, that didn’t mean you should put your hands into the ash from last night’s bonfire and finger paint your face black.

Please don’t hit him.

Please don’t hit me.

Please don’t zip up someone else’s jacket…see? Now his lips are caught in the zipper.

Please get out from under the seat of the bus. We’re driving on the highway. No, you didn’t “fall off” the seat. Nice try.

Don’t lick the seat.

Don’t lick the boy next to you.

Don’t lick the floor of the bus. Because your tongue may fall off. That’s why.

Put your pants on, boys. Put them on now. This is a school bus. Put your pants on. Actually, it’s not funny.

Kindergarten boys, listen up! Please do not let any part of your body touch any part of anyone else’s body. Got it?

Do I believe in Jesus Christ?  I certainly will if I make it off this bus in one piece.

Whatever they are paying these teachers, it’s not enough. They deserve a raise. Immediately.

*This post appeared in the Parents Section of the Huffington Post on October 18th, 2012.

We Do Not Bite Our Friends’ Butts

I often feel like I’m on an island, surrounded by penises. The island part appeals to me because I dig a nice beach. Unfortunately, there is no island. I’m simply surrounded by penises.

“Verb, stay there while I talk to Mommy.”

Oh, shit.

I approach his teacher with caution, “Oh uh. What did he do?”

She frowns, “He bit someone.”

“He WHAT?!”

“He bit someone.”

Oh, Jesus Christ.

His teacher graciously finds the silver lining, “The boy was fine, and the Verb was honest about it.”

Translation: Congratulations. Your kid is a biter, but not a liar.

Me: “Uh, yeah, but he bit someone.”

She throws me a bone, “I figured he was probably tired?”

Me: “He was exhausted. He was up too late last night because B&B was reading to him past his bedtime. Then he and the Interrogator were carrying on in their beds. Then I moved him into our bed. Then I carried him to his bed when I went to sleep. Then he came wandering into our room at 4:30AM. So, yes, he was tired. I’m sorry, I should have warned you this morning.”

She laughs, “Well, tell B&B it’s his fault that the Verb bit someone.”

Yes, of course it’s his fault. I’m glad she sees it too. How dare he keep our child awake reading to him.

Teacher, “He should make an I’m sorry card for the boy he bit.”

Me: “Absolutely. Who was it?”

She reveals his identity.

His parents are really nice. And he’s not the youngest of 4, so they’re not used to these shenanigans. Son of a bitch.

Teacher, “And the principal will probably call you about it tomorrow.”

“Yep.”

Great.

Teacher shaking hands with the Verb: “OK, Verb, thank you for being honest about what you did today. Don’t forget to make your card for your friend, and tomorrow is a new day!”

I gather my flock, and we migrate to the playground. The Verb extracts his dessert from his lunch bag and sits next to me on the bench.

I turn to him, “DUDE?!”

Verb: “Yes, Mom?”

Me: “Does Daddy bite Mommy?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “Does Mommy bite Daddy?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “Do we bite our friends?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “We do not bite people. Neither do you. You put food in your mouth, and nothing else. Understand?”

Verb: “Yes.”

I kiss his sweaty head: “Now, go play.”

He runs off to join the Interrogator.

Wait until I tell B&B about this. This kid morphs into a beast if he doesn’t get enough sleep.

“Mrs. Meyer, can I have a ride home when you leave?”

I look up from the bench to see one of Waldorf’s friends. “Sure, hon. I’ll drive you home.”

There are 3 of them…Waldorf and two buddies. It’s a sticky day…unseasonably warm and humid…so I’ll drive both friends home if necessary.

I look at his other friend: “I’ll drop you off at home too.”

“Thanks!”

Me: “Guys, come here a minute.”

The three of them gather around me.

“The Verb bit someone in school today.”

Six eyeballs grow wide.

Me, nodding, “And he may bring it up when we’re in the car. So I want you guys to reinforce to him that we do not bite people. We use our teeth for chewing food.”

Waldorf: “And gum.”

Waldorf’s buddy: “And spitting.”

Waldorf’s other buddy, “And sometimes for whistling.”

Jesus Christ Almighty.

Me: “Well, yeah, but let’s just stress that we don’t use our teeth for biting. OK?”

“Sure.”

“Hey, Mrs. Meyer, where did he bite the other kid?”

Me, matter-of-factly: “On the butt.”

They’re gone. Immediately on the ground. Grabbing their guts. High fiving. Kicking their feet.

It’s a chorus of voices: “The butt?! He bit somebody’s butt?! That is AWESOME! That’s HILARIOUS! Wow, I thought the Verb was cool before…but now? The Verb is the MAN!”

Me: “Get it all out now, gentlemen. I expect you to keep straight faces in the car. Otherwise, you’ll both be pounding pavement.”

“Sure, Mrs. Meyer…sure…bit his butt?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

The boys spend the next 45 minutes playing tag, climbing trees, scaling sliding boards and jumping from the swings. We manage to drop both of Waldorf’s friends off before the subject of biting arises in the car.

Interrogator: “I didn’t wike my job today.” (Wike=like. The Interrogator struggles with his L sounds.)

Me: “Oh? What was your job?”

Interrogator: “Sponge duty.”

Me: “What do you do when you have sponge duty?”

Interrogator: “You kween up (clean up) people’s messes. I didn’t wike it.”

Oh, I feel you, Interrogator.

Me: “Verb, what was your job?”

Verb: “Not to hit. Or bite. Or call anyone ‘poopypants’.”

Me: “Did you call someone poopypants too?!”

Verb: “No! My job was NOT to call anyone ‘poopypants’.”

Interrogator: “That’s a potty word.”

Verb: “I KNOW! That’s why it’s my job not to say it. Unless I’m in the bathroom. Then I can say poopypants poopypants poopypants!”

Interrogator: “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM! Verb said poopypants 3 times!”

Me: “I heard. Stop with the poopypants, both of you, please.”

Waldorf, unsolicited: “Verb, you know, you shouldn’t bite anyone.”

Oh, joy.

Interrogator: “Huh? Verb, did you bite someone?”

Verb: “Mm hmm. On the butt.”

Interrogator: “What?!”

The Kenyan serenades us from the back seat, “ I’ve got a butt. He’s got a butt. She’s got a butt. We’ve all got butts.”

*Side note…This is a real song. Coincidentally we heard it the very morning of the biting incident. Perhaps the writer of the song bears some of the blame for the Verb’s poor behavior. Just sayin…

Interrogator: “Why would you do that?!”

Verb: “Um, I was tired.”

Interrogator: “But you don’t bite someone on the…”

Waldorf interrupts, “OK, enough, we know, Interrogator!”

The Interrogator yells at Waldorf: “You’re a PU TAO!”

In unison, we ask: “WHAT?”

Interrogator: “I said you’re a PU TAO!”

Waldorf: “Mommy, the Interrogator is calling me something in Chinese.”

Me: “Interrogator, what are you calling him?”

Interrogator: “A grape! Pu tao is grape in Chinese!”

Waldorf: “OK, I am NOT a grape. That’s just ridiculous.”

“PING GUO!”

WTF?

Waldorf: “Oh, God. Enough with the Chinese already!”

Verb: “Yes! I take Chinese too!”

“PING GUO!!!”

Me: “Interrogator, what does Ping guo mean?”

The Interrogator couldn’t be more pleased with himself: “It means apple! In Chinese!”

Waldorf is less than amused: “Yes, we KNOW in Chinese!”

Interrogator, grows serious: “I’ll have to ask my teacher what the word is for ‘butt’ in Chinese. Since the Verb bit someone on his butt.”

Me: “Please refrain from doing that. We do not need to use potty words in Chinese class.”

Interrogator: “Well, he did, Mom. He bit someone’s butt.”

buttout

Kenyan continues serenading, “ I’ve got a butt. You’ve got a butt. He’s got a butt. We’ve all got butts.”

Me: “Enough butt talk. Enough.”

When we finally arrive home, I hide in the powder room and call B&B:

“So, your son bit someone today.”

B&B: “Oh, shit. Which son?”

“The Verb.”

B&B: “Is the other kid OK?”

“Yes.”

B&B: “What happened?”

Me: “Well, he was up too late last night when you were reading to him, remember I told you?”

B&B: “Whoa, wait a minute. You’re not blaming me for this, are you?”

Um…

Me: “No. Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”

Shhhhh.

Me: “Anyway, he was overly tired and he made a bad choice.”

“Where did he bite the kid?”

Me: “On the butt.”

B&B erupts into laughter.

Me: “It’s not funny.”

B&B: “Come on, it is kinda funny.”

Me: “When it’s somebody else’s kid, it’s funny. Not when it’s our kid.”

I wait for him to stop laughing. And wait.

Me: “So now the principal will be calling us tomorrow.”

B&B: “Why?”

Me: “It’s protocol. The teachers need to report that stuff to cover their asses.”

B&B: “Cover their asses? They better cover their asses! Before the Verb takes a bite out of theirs too!”

Ba-dom-bom.

Oh, and here is the Kenyan’s contribution.

A short comic strip illustrating the biting incident. Artwork by the Kenyan.

So, here I sit. On my island. Surrounded by penises.

Minus the island.   

A Letter to the Parents of the Olympic Athletes

olympics

Me: “Are you ready?”

Silence.

Me: “B&B, are you ready?”

Pause.

B&B: “Um…yeah…just…about…ready…”

Mother of God.

In my mind’s eye, I see him half-dressed, standing in front of the computer, eyes glued to the live feed of the men’s 4×100 meter relay final. I walk down the steps…and confirm my suspicions. B&B, wearing only a pair of unbuttoned shorts and his watch, looks from the computer monitor to me, then back to the monitor.

B&B, shoulders shrugged, palms skyward: “Beth, it’s the men’s 4×100! It starts in,” glances at his watch, “2 minutes.”

B&B ran track his senior year of high school. During that season, he managed to run a sub 5 minute mile and break the school’s high jump record. That record still stands over 20 years later. I can pull him away from the Olympic live feed during handball. Track and field? No shot. The fact that we are already late picking the Kenyan up from his friend’s house AND late for a party AND that we’ll see this race on NBC at primetime…moot points, all of them.

It’s the men’s 4×100 meter relay final.

I text the Mom of the Kenyan’s friend:

“Fucking B&B watching the Olympics. Be there in 15. Sorry.”

She replies:

“No problem. They’re playing outside. Take your time.”

I re-read my text to her. Hmmm.

I text her:

“Just clarifying, ‘fucking’ is an adjective, not a verb in this instance.”

I join B&B next to the computer, catching Usain Bolt’s leg of the race. And, just like that, a new world record is set.

We are a house of Olympic junkies. In the same manner that summer wreaks havoc on our regular schedule, the Olympic games dictate our lives for two weeks every four years. During the summer months, all 4 kids are home with me. All day. Every day. It kills my workout routine. Writing is near impossible. Laundry sits in piles…clean and dirty…in the corners of bedrooms and littering the family room furniture. I find string cheese wrappers in beds. There is too much pizza. Too little fruit. Bedtimes are not strictly enforced. Breakfast happens in shifts…beginning at 6:15 and ending when I warn Waldorf, who’s still in bed at 10AM that, “the kitchen is closing until lunch!” Since July 27, our haphazard summer schedule has become even more so, revolving around swimming, gymnastics, and track and field.

B&B and I are spellbound watching the Olympics. Most of the athletes are kids…teenagers and 20 somethings. They’ve dedicated their young lives to getting to this point. With the support of their coaches, their teachers, tutors, and friends, they’ve achieved a lifelong goal of becoming an Olympic athlete. None of it could have happened without the sacrifice, commitment, and support of their parents.

Which inspired me to write this…a letter to the parents of the Olympic athletes…

I loved meeting my newborn sons. In their first hours of life, I held each of them, studying every detail of their unfamiliar faces. I tugged at their receiving blankets to reveal their tiny shoulders. I counted ten tiny fingers and smiled as their reflexive grip tightened around my finger, so enormous in comparison. I unswaddled them to place my hands on feet that had never before touched the ground. Those hours, and the days following, were filled with hope and wonder. Who will this boy be? A soldier? A scientist? A philanthropist? An Olympic athlete? I dreamed big for them. And I hoped all of their dreams would come true.

It’s been 4 years since I held my last newborn…and I can say with certainty that there is not an Olympic athlete in my bunch.

For those parents who did give birth to Olympic athletes…thank you. This summer has been one of hope and wonder for my children as they’ve watched your children compete in the Olympic games.

Debbie Phelps, did you pull down his blanket and peek at your baby boy’s shoulders? Did you sense that they would eventually support the weight of 22 Olympic medals? Your child is a marvel. Thank you for recognizing that putting an active young boy in a pool will result in a tired young boy. Swimming proved a valuable strategy for dealing with Michael’s ADHD. Did you dream when you first put him in the pool that he would eventually become the most recognized face in his sport? He has an intensity in the pool and a quiet confidence outside the pool. As the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, one could argue he has every right to be cocky. The fact that he isn’t makes him even more endearing. I watched you watch him compete. As a mother, I identify with the intensity of watching him race, willing him to do his best. My kids watched your daughters watch their brother compete. They witnessed the pride your girls have in their little brother’s commitment to his sport. These are lessons we teach in our home. Thank you for your family’s example of what that support looks like…even once our kids reach adulthood.

Lynn and Rick Raisman, when you held your daughter for the first time, did you smile when her tiny hand enveloped your finger? Did you hope that it would be the same hand that would catapult her to Olympic gold? Would you have dared to dream so big for this, your first born baby? Aly’s sportsmanship sets her apart. We live in a world in which we’ve witnessed pro golfers throw their clubs in temper tantrums. We’ve seen a college basketball player choke his coach in a fit of rage. When Aly believed she hadn’t medaled on the balance beam, she hugged her coach. She took a deep breath. She remained poised. She sought out Catalina Ponor, who’d seemingly edged her for the bronze, embraced her, and congratulated her on a job well done. She was the picture of dignity. She’s a teenager. Competing at an elite level. In front of the world. The pressure she experiences is unimaginable. She thought her score put her just out of medal’s reach. Yet there it was…her sportsmanship. Her gesture is one I’ve played and replayed for my children. Boys, this is what sportsmanship looks like. My boys will never be Olympic athletes. They will never comprehend the pressure Aly feels. But they’ll know what it feels like to try their very hardest and fall short of a goal. They’ll know the sting of disappointment. Aly’s example of sportsmanship in action at the highest level of competition is a lesson for my children. Pretty sweet that she wound up winning the bronze due to a scoring error.

Sheila and Henke Pistorius, did you unswaddle your infant son and place your hands on his feet…feet that would only be his for a short time? Did you wonder who Oscar would be? 11 short months later, when he lost both legs below the knee, did you know then that your boy had the spirit of a champion? Did you sense, in a way that only a parent knows, that your child was destined to be a role model? That he would grow into a young man whose participation in the Olympics would embody courage? My children have watched your son in amazement. “His blades are cool!” Yep, his blades are cool. But his message is even cooler. No limits. No excuses. Endless possibilities. My husband and I choked back tears as we watched Kirani James, moments after winning the 400 meter semifinal, remove his bib in exchange for Oscar’s. Your son has earned the respect of his fellow athletes. He’s won the admiration of millions. Oscar is a true champion. An exceptional man. And a testament to the triumph of the human spirit.

Every parent of an Olympic athlete has his and her own unique story. While the stories differ, the themes remain the same. Sacrifice, commitment, support. Sacrificing family dinners for practices. Spending nights, weekends, years in a gym, at a pool, on the track. For Natalie Hawkins, sacrifice meant spending two years away from her daughter, Gabby Douglas, so that Gabby could train with the coach she hoped would enable her to fulfill her Olympic dream. The commitment…time, financial, and emotional…to seeing your child’s talent honed to make him one of the finest athletes to compete in his sport is beyond my imagination. The support you’ve given your children to empower them to continue performing with confidence, drive, and excellence to reach the Olympic level of competition…I am in awe of it.

When you held your babies, long before they were Olympians, before you knew they were athletes, did you wonder who they would be? Did you sense you were holding a future Olympic hero in your arms? Maybe, like I did, you simply dreamed big for them…and hoped all of their dreams would come true.

To the parents of the Olympic athletes…thank you for sharing your children with us this summer. It’s been an honor watching your children’s dreams come true.

An abridged version of this piece can be found in the August 13, 2012 edition of the Huffington Post.

The Evolution of a Parent

 

Slap me. If I claim I’m the same parent to my fourth child that I was to my first child, please slap me.

I held my first son eleven years ago and instantly fell in love. I was intoxicated by his newborn smell. I spent days watching him sleep. I devoured the parenting books, since my plan was to be the best mother of all time. As soon as he could sit unassisted, I signed us up for Gymboree class. Before he could crawl, I enrolled us in swim class. The day he clapped, I found the perfect music class for us. We hit the library every Thursday. And I fancied myself a favorite of the librarian since I was the only parent who didn’t smuggle goldfish into storytime. I read him three books every night. I rocked him every evening in the glider, where I recounted for him every single thing we’d done that day. Right down to what he’d eaten for breakfast.

I took myself seriously. And I took my job as his parent even more seriously. The night before delivering my second baby, I stood next to his crib and whispered to my sleeping son, the boy who’d stolen my heart, “I will never ever love another boy the way that I love you.”

Imagine my surprise when baby number two was another boy, and I grew to love him sometimes more just as much! I tethered the baby to the front of me, and braved Gymboree, music, and library. For obvious reasons, swimming got the kibosh.

I continued that pattern of giving birth to babies and wearing them as an accessory while attending classes I was convinced would boost their older siblings’ IQ scores social skills until my husband finally had a vasectomy my aching back could take no more. My aching back held up long enough for us to have four kids. All of them boys.

My fourth son has seen and done things to which I’d never have exposed my first son. He’s as nimble as a monkey because he’s never been on a playground that’s age appropriate. He’s three years old and knows every Ninjago, Pokemon, and Harry Potter character. His voice is the loudest in our house because he learned early that it’s the only way I’ll hear him. I’ve taken him to storytime at the library exactly once. We may have been asked to leave.

I still take my job as their parent very seriously. But I no longer take myself seriously.

I’ve learned resourcefulness.

When the sink is full of dirty dishes, the homework hasn’t been started, the lunches still need packing, it’s bedtime for the younger two, and a new episode of Breaking Bad is about to start…I ask one of the older boys to read their brothers one short bedtime story.

When I can’t muster the energy to bathe them after we’ve spent seven solid hours at the pool, I remember that swimming in the pool (yes, even the pee-pee baby pool) is the equivalent of bathing in summertime. I gave birth to four non blondes. Nobody’s hair is at risk of turning green. It’s all good.

When my taxed bladder threatens to give out, and I’m in my minivan at Target, I’m faced with a dilemma. Schlep four boys into the ladies room (two of them are borderline too old for that, and the other two will inevitably lick the sink), or toss them Angry Birds on my iPhone while I crawl into the trunk and relieve myself in a Dunkin Donuts cup? I’m going with the cup every time. Ask my kids…they’ve become Angry Birds experts.

I was at the gym recently waiting to sign my kids into babysitting. Ahead of me was a Mom with one son. I watched the seconds turn into minutes, as she, with no sense of urgency, made nametags for: her son, herself, her son’s diaper bag, her gym bag, and her son’s two stuffed animals.  It took her long enough that I had time to mentally review every curse I know. She then held the sharpie hostage while she debated with him who should pick up the stuffed animals he’d thrown onto the ground. When my inner monologue had run out of expletives, I vowed to work more yoga into my routine and smiled at her. I recognized her. She was a Mom with her first son. A boy who’d stolen her heart. She was taking herself seriously…and her job as his Mom even more seriously. I bet she’s never urinated into a cup in her car.

evolution

I glanced at my first son, the boy I’d rocked in the glider every night as a baby. He stands almost as tall as I do. I struggled to remember the last time he’s sat on my lap. Has it been a year? I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, which promise to be as broad as his Daddy’s, and took a moment to breathe in the scent of the first of four boys to steal my heart. I am not the same Mom to four kids that I was to one. But I will never ever love another boy the way that I love you.

*An abridged version of this piece appeared in the Huffington Post on July 13th in the Parents section.