Let’s Begin at the Beginning

“Psst.”

I look over my shoulder in his direction, “What?”

He whispers, “Come here and look at this.”

He places his finger against his closed lips to caution me to remain quiet. We make eye contact. He nods his head in the direction of our living room sofa.

I peek around the pantry. There sits Waldorf. His favorite cat on his lap. A book in his hand.

I retreat back into the kitchen, smile at B&B, and whisper, “That’s sweet.”

He frowns. Shakes his head. Whispers, “Look again.”

I do as instructed, looking more closely this time. He’s not holding the cat against his will. For a change. His feet are on the couch, but his shoes are off. He’s not eating candy. He’s reading the new book he got for Christmas. He just started it. Wait. He’s practically finished it? How could he have read it that quickly?

Waldorf is reading the last few pages of his new book. As I watch, unnoticed, from the kitchen, he flips to the first page of his book, settles in, and begins reading.

I retreat once more into the kitchen. Eyes wide, I look at B&B. “That right there is blasphemy.”

B&B wears a pained expression, “He read the ending of the book first. Who does that?”

I shrug and smile, “Evidently, Waldorf does it.”

turning1

***

We are firm believers in the notion that birth order shapes personality. Unfortunately for our oldest son, he is our guinea pig. Not only is he our first, he is the product of a middle child and a youngest child. Many of his seemingly indelible first born tendencies are lost on both of his parents. We recognize our oldest siblings in his behavior. We recognize all four of our parents…each of them oldest children…in his behavior. While the dynamic is familiar to us, neither of us can relate to him as readily as we can to our other kids. Our experiences as middle and youngest children make those emotions accessible to us.

***

I sit up in bed, propped against two pillows.

“What are you doing?”

His voice takes me by surprise. Reading intently, I haven’t heard him ascend the stairs, open the bedroom door, or sit down on our shared bed.

I keep my eyes on my book, answering, “I’m reading.”

“I can see that you’re reading. What are you doing with your hand?”

I look down at my right hand, which deliberately covers the last two paragraphs of the page I’m currently reading. “I put my hand there so I don’t skip ahead to see what happens.”

He smiles. “Is that right?” Raises his eyebrows, “Waldorf?”

I dismiss him. “You’re out of your mind.”

He laughs, “That’s funny. Considering I’m not the one who is placing my hand over the unread words to keep myself from skipping ahead in the book.”

Whatever.

***

B&B is onto something. I admit that. Under protest.  

There are several aspects of our oldest son’s personality that remain an enigma to me. But there are more things about him to which I can relate.

He is private to a fault. He isn’t overly affectionate. He strives for perfection. He wants so desperately to be funny.

He is the physical image of his Father at 11 years old. But, Waldorf is his Mother’s son.

And I feel as though I’ve burdened him.

***

I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions. While I admire the intentions behind them, I find they are often lip service.  And make for overly crowded gyms until mid-February.

Despite my feelings toward them, I found myself resolving, last January, to take more chances. Stop being so private.

To be vulnerable. Be more affectionate.

To open myself up to new possibilities. You’re only human.

To try. Knowing I’d very possibly fail. Everything you say and do doesn’t have to be funny.

I’d spent my life reading the last chapter of the book first. Planning. Controlling. Knowing what to expect.

And I found myself ready, finally, to start a new chapter. With a different book. Without my hands blocking the words. With no glimpse at the ending.

So, in 2012, I started cross training. I began practicing yoga. For the first time since I’d become a parent, I resumed working “outside the home”. And, I started writing.

When I walked into her cross training gym, owner Pamela asked me what I wanted. I told her I wanted to be less tired. She spent 7 weeks sharing her nutritional expertise and recipes with me. Throughout those 7 weeks, she showed me that I can get the same results working out for 20 minutes that I’d been getting in triple that time exercising. It’s 20 minutes of sheer hell, punctuated with lots of cursing. But it’s 20 minutes. And, when I eat what she tells me to eat, I’m less tired. Which explains why I’m dragging after eating pizza last night. Seeing the results of my hard work makes me happy.

When I tiptoed into yoga for the first time, everything about it was foreign. The music, the temperature, the physical proximity to strangers, the entire situation. I was overwhelmed and intimidated. Over the past 8 months, that studio, once so unfamiliar, has become a place of refuge for me. I love my yoga instructor, whom I’ve deemed my spiritual bartender. I’m physically challenged and mentally balanced. I get an intense workout and an attitude adjustment each time I hit my mat. Feeling the energy in that room makes me happy.

Every time I leave my house to go to work, I stress a little bit. Should I be leaving the kids?
Yes, it’s only 4 hours/week. And I’m leaving them with B&B, who is their father. And, yes, I ate cake and got a chair massage while working this past Sunday. Semantics. But those four hours recharge my batteries. I come home refreshed and happy to see them. I love being in the store. I love the vibe. I love the clothes. I love connecting with the customers. I love the owner, who’s become a dear friend and pimps my writing like she’s my john. Being a part of their team makes me happy.

The leap I took in 2012 that’s impacted my life the most happened one year ago today. I posted my first story to my blog. It has been so much work. But it has been so very worth it. Over the course of the year, I’ve chronicled the chaos of our household, one anecdote at a time. I’ve wheezed with laughter over my keyboard at times. I’ve pushed my chair away from my computer, and allowed my body to wrack with sobs at others. I’ve been lucky to develop friendships with fellow writers in all different parts of the country. I’ve connected with readers, who’ve touched my heart with their beautiful e-mail messages. Through mutual friends, I met a literary agent in NY. She is now my literary agent in NY. She is a rock star, and she puts up with my crazy. We are overdue for margaritas. Writing makes me happy.

It feels like I’ve grown more in the past 12 months than I did in the 20 years prior to that. Opening myself up to new experiences and being vulnerable has connected me with so many new people. It’s left me content, at peace, supported, inspired, challenged.

***

How do I tell an 11 year old boy that I know firsthand what a burden it is to be so private, to reserve affection, to demand perfection of yourself? How do I explain to him that the most important thing he can do in this life is let his guard down and connect with other people?

I don’t.

I just continue to be his Mom.

And encourage him to continue to be who he is.

And quietly hope he navigates his way…eventually…

…to a brand new book…

…on the first page of Chapter 1…

…because this, my friends, is a good place to be.

Thanks to so many of you for connecting with me to make this past year…and my life…so extraordinarily full.

***

Please note my blog has moved to http://bethanymeyer.com/ .

***

This is week 3 in our This Is Childhood series. My friend, Nina Badzin…my Jewish sister from another mother…provides her honest insight into 3 years old. Please read her here. She is so much kinder about this age than I have ever been….

I was slow to motherhood. Painfully slow.

To be perfectly honest, I was scared of my first…(continue reading here)

IMG_13073 year old Kenyan
Interrogator 3 yearsWaldorf 3 years

16 thoughts on “Let’s Begin at the Beginning

  1. It’s amazing how often your posts apply so directly to what is going on in my own life. As I contemplate making a huge change, going back to work and leaving #3 in the care of someone other than family, as I deal with poor #1 who has been cursed with my anxiety, as I work to make changes in me that will make me (and hopefully those around me) happier people. This post speaks to me…so thanks! I can do all these new things – and slowly move beyond the cozy world of stay at home moms and the Y. Congrats on 1 year of writing – you rock!

    • Thank you, Elsje! You are one of the people I’m referring to (and we are overdue for drinks as well), so thank you for making my life richer. You can absolutely do all of those new things, and it will be good for the boys to watch you figure them out. I hate learning curves, but it’s important for our kids to realize they exist and that we continue to challenge ourselves.

      My tenure at the Y ended on January 15th. Bittersweet. I loved every minute of it. Hello, 20 minute workouts right around the corner from the boys’ school? That are kicking my ass? It was time. XO

  2. This is so, so true. I see my (12 yo) son and all the pressure he puts on himself – the not wanting to do anything until he’s CERTAIN he can do it right, his shyness until he feels known (and then he’s ridiculous and hysterical and loud). I’m the middle and I married a very bossy oldest. And I’m writing, and trying to see myself as me again after struggling with kid’s anaphylactic food allergies for 12 years. And forgetting I have a 9 yo daughter. And yeah. Um. GOOD TALK. Thanks for this!

    • Birth order, my friend. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Most of the oldest children in my life are creatures of habit and have difficult with change. My yoga instructor (spiritual bartender) is one who comes to mind who is an atypical oldest. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that her practice has relaxed her.

      Meanwhile, we’ve been giving our second born the lion’s share of attention recently. He’s going through some new challenges, and he’s kicking ass. I’m riddled with guilt over the lack of attention the other 3 boys are getting. So, here I am, writing about them. Yep, good talk indeed.

  3. Bethany, I got the link to this blog post from Alice – natch. I am laughing and nodding and smiling because a) I just sent Alice my finished second book and now all I can do is wait b) I just started taking yoga again after a four year absence and it is the best thing I ever re-committed to doing for myself c) my first born/oldest is so much like yours and my second one pretty much has his middle finger up with a smile on his face from morning til night. I’m sure there is some mom in Bangladesh who is having a very similar experience because it seems that at the end of the day, moms share the universal struggles of who, what, when, where, why and most importantly – HOW THE FUCK! Congrats on all your success!

    • Lisa!!! What an enormous accomplishment, book #2 written and out of your hands! Can’t wait to read it! Congratulations, girlfriend!

      Add two big dimples and constant humming to your second born, and you’ve got my second born.

      No doubt we are all going through the insanity. There will be wine tonight to help me cope with mine. XO

  4. So beautiful. I am a first born, The Hub is a first born, and our First Born…. our beautifully complex, emotional, demanding, and high energy first born… well we have the therapy fund set aside. I was just having this conversation with my husband about how much First Born is like me, and how guilty I feel about that. I want so much to tell him what it has taken me 40 years to learn! He is only 9! I love your answer to this,

    “I don’t.

    I just continue to be his Mom.

    And encourage him to continue to be who he is.

    And quietly hope he navigates his way….”

    It is the hardest job in the world. The job of being a mother and helping our kids grow into healthy adults while still growing ourselves into healthy adults.

    I love your work. I have said it many times, I can’t WAIT for the book!!! So glad to have met you this past year!

    • That is so well put…”helping our kids grow into healthy adults while still growing ourselves into healthy adults”. Boom. We must still be growing up with our kids, right?

      Are you sure your hubby (and all of his fantastic facial hair) is not the youngest child?

      Thank you so much, Michelle…you were the first blogger to come across my blog and give me a shout. I remember how thrilled I was to read your comments. You, Michele, Elsje and I need to coordinate calendars! XO, my friend!

  5. Wow. This is the first time I’ve read your writing (thanks for commenting on my blog because I am SO glad I found yours) and I’m so impressed. My son is only three, but I’ve recently accepted a job/project that will take up 20 hours each week and I’m completely freaked out by that. Mostly, because I know my time will be fine with my son but I worry so much about when I’m going to write (here it is, almost 1am and I just finished today’s post on my blog).

    I LOVED this…most especially of all:
    I just continue to be his Mom.

    And encourage him to continue to be who he is.

    And quietly hope he navigates his way…eventually…

    …to a brand new book…

    …on the first page of Chapter 1…

    Dude. You are awesome. Thanks for finding me so that I could find you.

    • Thanks, Kristi! Finding time to write is harder than I planned. This is the first time in 11 years that all 4 of my kids are in school full day. I thought I’d be cranking it out. But they have to eat. And wear clean clothes. And I go on most of their field trips. Sometimes I’ll block out time to write…and come up with nothing because I’m not feeling inspired that day. I’m thrilled if I can post something solid once a week. Congrats on the job!

  6. LOL! ~ Yoga instructor = spiritual bartender.
    So excited to hear you have an agent! WooT! You deserve this.
    I don’t know where you find the time and creative energy to write so beautifully, but I’m glad you do. You will attain your wonderful goals because you put yourself out there and try. Thank you for another terrific post.

    • Dee, thank you so much! I do call her my spiritual bartender. She listens to my problems and fixes me up with an eagle series that leaves my hips numb. Thank you for your kind words that always touch my heart! So glad we connected in these past 12 months!

  7. I absolutely loved this. And for the record – I have been known to skip to the end before. But only when I just can’t stand to go one second longer without knowing what is coming next! 😉

    • If we’re being honest, sometimes I lift my hand and jump ahead because I can’t stand the suspense any longer! Thanks for reading!

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