When You Enter The Uncool Zone With Your Kids

We’d all like to think we’ve still got it. I’m not talking about that “it” factor that makes people attracted to you. You know, like when the college boy working the ice cream counter appears to have done a double take, and you walk out of there with an extra skip in your step.  I’m talking about the cool factor with your kids. Somehow, we’re hip in our kids’ minds for a certain time. We are infallible for a hot second and, on occasion, they look up to us. Maybe it’s because of the stories we share with them, or the things we participate in with them, or perhaps it’s purely because they feel the love.

Don’t be fooled friends, this can all change on a dime. I’m sure some of you are already being nicknamed and called things by your kids as they chuckle under their breath. You’ve crossed over into the uncool zone if this is happening. On this note, according to my 6 year old, I am what he likes to call “Derpy“.  He learned this word from the FTG family on YouTube and, apparently, it is the opposite of cool.

We went out to dinner recently and I was shamelessly pointing and whispering about a famous person that was dining nearby. Kids, that guy is definitely famous. Teetering on being obvious, I tried a bit too hard to be enthusiastic to hype them up about it. For what reason- I can’t even tell you. I guess I wanted them to have the same excitement I was having so I was behaving like Lenny Kravitz had just blown me a kiss. I guess you could say it’s never quite as fun to spot a celebrity without someone else to enjoy the moment with.

We carried on with a relatively uneventful dinner and about half way through I connected the dots with who the guy was. He was simply someone who worked in the same building as I had for many years. A celebrity he was not! Once I realized this, I almost spit out my delicious margarita. I proceeded to laugh off and on about it throughout the rest of dinner. I thought it was hysterical. My kids and husband sat there shaking their heads at my ridiculousness. Mom, you’re SO derpy my youngest proclaimed.

I pick my kids up from school each day and usually we’ll pass by someone I know. According to my 6 year old, even the way I say hi to my friends is derpy. Mom why did you say “hi ladies” like that? You’re so derpy.

During a playdate, while making him and his friend a snack, I started chatting with my son’s buddy. He whispered to her, she’s SO derpy and rolled his eyes.

Now it’s a face I make in a photo, an outfit I wear, etc….it’s all…you guessed it….SO derpy.

This is surely payback from the universe for all the awful things I nicknamed my mom growing up: Splinter (the rat from Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles), Skeletor (the bad guy from He-Man), and Bronto, short for brontosaurus (because of her long neck and smallish head).

My 6 year old calling me derpy is way better than the mean things I called my mom the moment I deemed her uncool. Think back to what you called your parents or teased them about and get ready for it my fellow P’s.

Mom, you have my permission to call me Derpy whenever you want.

He Said

He said you girls will always be my number one most important thing in this world. It felt very true, until it wasn’t anymore.

He said we are going to have to kiss on the playground. But only because they want us to. No choice. He didn’t want to either. The crowd surrounded us, pushing, cheering, smiling. The teacher’s whistle blew and it was time to return to the 6th grade. The back of my arm wiped the saliva from my upper lip, chin, and cheeks.

He said it again, and again, and again. The words hissed and hung in the tan leather of his extravagant car. Weekend after weekend the words repeated and washed over this brain. Women who have sex are whores. Never have sex.

He said take this necklace, I will miss you after you move. Let’s be pen pals. His sweet second grade hand-writing a precious memory tucked away in the pages of my childhood journal.

He said do you want to go to the football game with me? New school and a new crush. The innocence; the electricity of our knees touching while shivering on the bleachers. The smell of high school concessions and crisp leaves in the fall air. The lights over the field shining down on the athletes as we watched. The familiar car lights pulling up to retrieve us. Hands interlaced, but only for a few seconds. Comforted to sleep by images of his pretty face; pointed nose, thick dark eyebrows, sharp cheekbones. The anticipation of the bus ride palpable. The rush of excitement as my shoes met with the bus stairs. The sounds of the whispers. The name in the whispers was mine. The blood draining from my face. The lies washed over me, like a bucket with too much water poured over my head, into my nose and mouth. Drowning in the feeling of betrayal. The sentences with our names were horrible lies. The ruining of my reputation in an instant. Confused by his kind, hand-holding innocence. Long term damage by untrue words spoken from his lips like wildfire in a matter of seconds.

He said you girls should come back to our hotel room. We’ll play cards and drink beer. He left the sliding glass door to the balcony cracked. The sliding glass door, his one mistake, and the only viable escape. Come out and look at the stars with me he said. Crashing of balcony furniture,aggressive scuffling, ripped clothing. His friend, a living angel, walking toward that sliding glass door, opening it gloriously wider, tilting his head quizzically at his red-faced, attacking friend. Running, running, running through that beautiful space between the sliding glass door. Running through the humid Florida night clinging to my sweat soaked skin . Running to freedom through the lobby, away from that hotel, and that strange, scary, teenage boy.

He said you have a gift, you should keep writing. A teacher that was otherwise insignificant in this life, in this mind, were it not for this statement.

He said nothing as he used a fleeting moment in a pool filled with people to rip my bathing suit off and grope me.

He said she’s my number one now. Sometimes things change. You girls need to listen to her because she’s your stepmom now. And then everything changed.

He said you’re no longer my daughter. You’re nothing to me. It was truth.

He said I’m sorry for what you have been through. I’m glad you’re here. You’ll always be a sister to me, I’m here for you and so is my family. This was truth. Truth that felt good.

He said of course I’ll sign. If it will help you buy your first car, or help you in any way, I will do it. You’re my niece, I’d do anything to help you. And because of this and because of him, I bought my first car.

He said just hang out with my older brother while I’m upstairs hanging out with N. He thinks you’re pretty; he remembers you from that party a few months ago. He was 21 and I 13. My friend later descending the stairs, jovial, beautiful, content. My state of mind a flagrant contradiction to hers. He got up and waved good-bye. We walked back to her house. I wiped his saliva from my chin, my face.

He said among the hundreds of tulips of every vibrant color covering every inch of my teenage bedroom, with white lights woven in between, will you go to prom with me?

He said That prom dress you wanted, it’s yours. I’m buying it because you deserve it, and I love you. And the dress of my dreams became the dress I wore to prom. Forever grateful, this I hope he knows.

He said I’m sorry for what you’re going through, we’re always here. You’re a good kid and I hope you know this. He was a man of few words and his few words meant the world to a sixteen year old girl. It was never forgotten, heartfelt, and so uplifting in that moment.

He said get in the f-ing van you slut! Gripping my wrist, my body hanging out of the open passenger side door, the van accelerating through the parking lot. Pulling, spitting, shouting obscenities, the man pulled as hard as he could to get all of me inside. A strange man, in a van, nude from the waist down. Pull, pull, pull away. Asphalt, hot, trip back to work. Call police to report. Horror, horror, saw you again; your smile, your stare searing through my flesh. Off to Boston, go, go, go, press the gas; leave this real life nightmare behind.

He said through tears and the kind of hug that makes it hard to breathe, I read your diaries while you were gone. Please don’t be mad. The sounds of the airport loud and distracting. Wrought with emotion, he continued on You don’t have to worry anymore in your life. I want to marry you… I love you and I want you to know I will never leave you. It was truth.

He said Congratulations it’s a boy! And the universe, God, love, and all of the emotion that embodies being human swept through this mind and body. Entangled experiences that shaped my unique world falling, falling away from me. Paradoxical.

He said I love you, Mom. Then later, They said I love you, Mom. And no more beautiful words were ever spoken to this mind, this heart, this human, this spirit. And I believe it to be truth.

When Your Child Turns 5 – The Final Goodbye to Having a Little One

Not daycare, not pre-school, not your first, second, third, or fourth birthday. Not even the first day back from maternity leave. None of those days stirred the type of emotional storm that hit me like a ton of bricks this week.  The catalyst brewing this storm of emotion is the birthday that awaits you in just a few short days- your fifth birthday.

The young age of 5 means so much more than it sounds. It reduces me to a weeping mess unable to gain control of emotions because it is having to accept a plethora of things.

It is having to acknowledge that you are changing every day so much right now. It is the realization that certain everyday things are coming to an end.  Like when I tried to lift you and place you into the shopping cart a few days ago and could barely get you off the ground. It’s the not being able to carry your sleeping body out of the car and lie you down in your bed. It’s having to respect the “I don’t want kisses” mantra (really, already?). It’s the end of being Mommy to you and now I’m just plain old “Mom”. It’s the knowing that this is likely the last time we can bring cupcakes and read a book to your class for your birthday. This means I will need to memorize the glee on your face when it’s taking place because I know you’ll be bursting at the seams with excitement. And honestly, I don’t know what’s worse-knowing this could be our last birthday visit to your classroom or that you want your dad to bring the cupcakes and read the book to the class on your birthday instead of me.

You will start Kindergarten in 8 short months. You are our last baby and we’re trying with every ounce to hold onto that before your “little” years are gone. Having gone through this once already with your older brother we know that it is definitely the age of many changes.  Shifts in normal day to day interactions start to take place and before we know it, you won’t be considered little kid status anymore.

For the last year, your dad has a running joke that you don’t get to have anymore birthdays. This is of course because he is also sad that you are growing up. He knows what turning five and starting kindergarten means.

When your brother turned five, it was also a very emotional time. The week he started kindergarten, I cried like a baby (this is what becoming a mom did to me, I used to have difficulty crying, and now I cry rivers). I just had this strong sense that things were going to change once he went to elementary school.  I remember calming myself with the thought that I had one more baby to go through all these stages again with.

But now you’re about to be five.

Being the second child means having to share the attention. This has made you an incredible sharer, extremely patient, smart, and unbelievably observant. It also means you get annoyed by us a lot because we’re always trying to pinch your cheeks, hug you, kiss you, cuddle you, etc.

But being the last child we’ll ever have means I’m of course questioning everything I did with you.  I know we gave our undivided attention to your brother since he was the only one for 3 and a half years.  So did I express that I love you enough during your infant and toddler years? Did I hug and kiss you enough? Did I chase and tickle you enough? Did I pay close enough attention to you when you most needed it? Because if I didn’t, it’s a bit late and the agony of not knowing if I did enough is really weighing on my mind. In fact, the more I think about it, the more of an insane person I become. I hope with all of my being that you felt the love my boy.

The other night, while I was lying in your bed reading to you, you were unusually tired and asked me to turn out the light. I stared at your face and in my head asked myself why the heck I often stare at the ceiling instead of your precious face during this nighttime ritual. As I started to drift off next to you, I felt your tiny hand land on my cheek. You patted my cheek and left your soft baby palm there, then you slipped your other hand into mine and fell asleep that way. This was a rare and gorgeous moment. It’s not often that we hold hands at bedtime and the last time I got a face pat as you were drifting off was when you were 3.

It felt as though you knew I was filled with worry. I searched your sleeping face.  Silently through this beautiful gesture, I felt some reassurance and some serious love.  And I felt really sad. Like really, really, really sad. I know I’m done having babies, but frankly, I wasn’t prepared for how hard the realization was going to be. There are emotions that just come out of nowhere.

In your mind, you’ve already graduated to I-can-do-and get-whatever-I-want-when-I-am-five; which you legit said the other day. Life moves onward and we should not stunt its growth no matter how hard it pulls on our hearts-obviously. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why humans have a memory. To frame in our minds moments that are most precious to us. Moments like the one last night; your small hand on my cheek and your other laced into mine. Hands that once fit only inside my palm.

Your life and future are going to be so much fun to watch and be a part of.  So while one part of us sadly says goodbye to your little self, the other part of us embraces the awesome big kid you’ll be. You can expect to see a mix of strange face expressions from your parents that include smiles of enthusiastic encouragement on our mouths, yet tears of nostalgia in our eyes.

Happy birthday, my last baby.

 

The Paths We Take

One of my favorite movies is Sliding Doors (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow as the lead role. The movie takes us through her life in two ways. One half of the film shows how her life unfolds when she makes the train, the other half of the movie is what happens when she misses the train. I think the reason I love this movie so much is because it’s both timeless and incredibly thought provoking.

It’s fascinating to think about the many different paths life can take. Recently, I had the pleasure of  hanging out with various old friends whom I haven’t seen in awhile. The conversations were some of the most interesting I’ve had in a long time. I felt an immense amount of admiration while hearing some of their stories. Career accomplishments they’ve made these last few years, some had bucket list trips they had taken or are about to take, others were growing their families or had just bought their first home.  Some of them had started out with very little and have ended up quite successful. Others needed some help along the way due to the economic crash and had finally felt like they’d turned a corner. Some were living back under their parent’s roof and have now purchased their own homes and are more appreciative than ever of what they can now call their own. Watching people grow over the years and seeing who they become is one of the beautiful things in life.

Most people don’t see themselves as extraordinary.  Meanwhile, if they only knew how far they’ve come! As the listener, hearing these stories made my heart grow two-fold. People are out there working hard at life and damn, I want them to know these unique paths they’re on are all a pretty big deal! People need to take a moment and reflect on where they were 5 years ago versus where they are now. Be proud. Seriously. You’re killin’ it!

I look at my husband and how hard he has worked on his business. The path he chose actually lead us to Connecticut. That was my Sliding Doors moment: to stay in Chicago or not to stay. My path forked and while I was unsure about starting over again, I was sure I was in love, so I took a leap of faith.

These paths we all take aren’t 100% ours though. In part we owe thanks to the supporters that said the things we needed to hear or maybe the things we didn’t want to hear to make it to where we are.

Looking back on the night before I moved, my mother said some words of encouragement to me. She was probably wondering how I would be across the country, on my own with my boyfriend of only 5 months, no job lined up, a roommate I didn’t know yet, and so much uncertainty that lay ahead of me.  As it turns out, if she was nervous about my choice, she did not let on that she was. Instead she was excited for me, she told me she was convinced I would marry this guy, that she felt it was the right call, and that it was pretty awesome I’d be living near a beach and not too far from New York City. She 100% supported my decision. It was just the boost I needed to go forth and see what was in store for the next chapter of my life.

So here I am on Chapter 37 of my life and that little decision I made turns out to have been one of the best.

It got me thinking about the decisions my sons will make and where their lives might take them.

The other day I pulled into our driveway and both my sons were dancing out front. They had a little speaker set up (thank you bluetooth) and a sign taped to the speaker that said “Please give us Money”. After I stopped laughing at their cute creative way to make a dollar, I quietly watched them. I don’t know how long I stood there, but I tried to encapsulate the moment.

I took in their blonde fluffy hair, their face expressions, and their moves while jamming out with wild abandon. I thought about the men they will grow to eventually be. How will they choose to spend their days? Will they live far away from us? Will they want to call us or have nothing to do with us?  I wondered if they would choose to be married or stay single, to travel the world, or settle down and have families. Most of all I wondered if as their parent I could somehow bottle this carefree happiness that they embodied in this moment and make sure it stays part of them into adulthood.

For now, while they are young, it’ll be fun to talk about what they want to do or be or what they like and don’t like.  And then of course when they’re teenagers I can look forward to making them watch Sliding Doors with me. I’m very much looking forward to that.