My Brother

I’m seven years older than my brother. My first memory  of him, was just waiting for him. I don’t remember my Mom being pregnant, but I do remember the anticipation. Back then there were no ultrasounds and my Dad really wanted a boy. He loved us girls, he appreciated us and I think having me as the oldest, saved any boy that might have been born first from a lot of heartbreak. Despite his love and open wallet for us girls, my Dad really wanted a boy.

In much later years my mother would say, ‘thank god he was a boy, otherwise I would have had to keep having children’. Not a sentimental one, my mother and yes, the lowercase g is on purpose.

But my brother was the star of the family despite later sexist trauma. He was gurgly and pudgy and happy. I used to change his diaper every five minutes until my mother said I was wasting diapers. Cause he really wasn’t really needing a diaper change. He was cute and gurgly and kind of like a real live Barbie. Okay, no. He was better than a Barbie. He drank, he laughed, he cried,he peed and he needed a diaper change.

And I found a way around my Mom’s rules. I poured water down his diaper. I don’t remember him being upset. I just remember his being wet and needing a diaper change and I was happy to be of service.

And then later as we got older, I don’t remember a lot about my brother. I remember him always being there. I remember my best friend and I ripping Jelly Bellys in half and pasting them together to create medicine that he could take when we played a very tame version of doctor. I was a Doctor and Nurse’s daughter after all. I didn’t know about dirty doctor till much later. I remember building sand structures with him at the beach at our summer house. I remember traipsing to the stream down the beach from our house and gathering clay, though I think I remember our sister, the middle child, being more into that than either of us. I remember my brother being so skinny and dense that Mom was terrified he would be sucked away by the undertow. L.

I remember years later finding a body on the beach. It was a 13 year old boy who’d been sucked under by the current. And even though it was our first weekend there and he’d been in the water for two weeks, being grateful that the under tow hadn’t gotten my brother. I remember wanting him to be safe and happy.

And that’s exactly what didn’t happen. My brother is not happy. Well, I guess I can’t say that. Cause I haven’t talked to my brother in years. No one has. I don’t know what he thinks or feels. But whatever it is, it’s not a happy place.

When we were all still at home, my brother was the closest with my Mom. And he continued to be well after us older girls left home and had families of our own, but one day it just stopped.

Teenagers

Ugh, teenagers. It’s all I really have to say. But at the same time it really says it all. I am trying to keep my head, but today I lost it with my 16 year old. Yes, she’s 16 already. When I started this blog I would write about the crazy tween years. And I erroneously believed that we were going to sail through the teen years. I guess because this kid has never been easy, I thought it would be okay. I thought we could handle it, cause after all we’ve been parents for 16 years now and we’ve handled it before.

And she’s given us some doozies. There was the birthday party, was it 5th grade? or 4th grade where they all got naked and compared body parts. I had to spend the next day calling parents and apologizing and explaining that apparently I was in the next room. And it might have just been considered some pre-adolescent…I think it was 3rd grade….curiosity, but there were girls who were extremely uncomfortable and felt pressured. I still cringe thinking about it.

There was the time that she gave someone the finger, because she was showing someone how long the nail on her middle finger was. It was kindergarten and the teacher wanted to know how come she didn’t know what that meant. I guess I’m out of touch because I just kept wondering how many kindergartners knew what giving someone the finger means. BTW, the teacher didn’t see it, some little girl told on her. So, really who was the weird kid here?

There’s the fact that people give her clothes and create jobs for her because somehow she has led everyone to believe that we’re dirt poor and can’t provide for her. That one is still raw and we’re still dealing with it. One person even bought her a plane ticket so she could visit her grandmother in Chicago. Cringe, again.

So the fact that I want to rip my hair out this morning because this child who I raised to be polite and considerate, compassionate and sweet is anything but when it comes to me and I’m at the end of my rope. She is the perfect child around everyone else, but around me she’s a holy terror. And her jabs hurt a lot more than one would think.

So, today I’m fed up, I’m tired and I’m frustrated. I’m sick of every morning in the car being a battle of wills or sullen silence. I’m tired of starting my day with that energy. I’m tired of how it affects my youngest who IS still sweet and loving and compassionate. Oh, yeah LOVING. I raised her to be loving, but I think I’ve given up on that one until she has kids of her own.

BUT, having said all this I have learned a lot from my elders. I know that this is a phase, because all of my friends who have grown-up kids say it is. I know that she’ll come back because all of my friends’ kids did. I know that when she figures out who she is and what this world holds for her she will have to battle against me less. She’ll just battle in life less.

I have to believe these things. And I have to remember that is far worse to be her than to be me right now. I have to learn to take it all less personally.

So, I don’t have a lot of words of wisdom, I just have a lot of ranting and venting. I don’t have energy for pictures or other cool media. I’m out of energy. It’s 9:22am.

Between the two blogs I’m writing everyday for NaBloPoMo and some days I think it’s just going to be a little less spectacular than others. This is today. It’s only Tuesday and I want to sell my kids.

Happy Tuesday!

 

 

The Best Halloween

This year we did Halloween right. It’s been quite a few years since I really felt/ believed/had the right to say that. It wasn’t the biggest most extravagant holiday ever. It wasn’t the fake, store bought costume that G begged for. We did have three weeks of baking/decorating/parties. But it was the best for a long time. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday. As a kid I used it as an excuse to do the things my parents didn’t want me to do….wear fake red nails, don high heels, etc. When I got to college I was suddenly shy and didn’t really do much but use it as an excuse to drink, but when I had kids? All bets were off. And sometimes we didn’t do as well. L  remembers the year she was a kitty for Halloween. Fondly. It was the year my husband and I broke up and I was completely distracted and bought her a headband with ears and a tail and she wore a black turtleneck and black leggings. But it was the one time I caved and bought her a store bought Halloween costume-or at least parts. So the lesson there was clear, but I didn’t learn it. I didn’t realize that you want what you want and despite all my best efforts other years all this perfection-oriented kid wanted was to fit in and have store bought pieces parts. I also didn’t realize till right now that it was the last holiday that we lied to her. We all went trick or treating together and acted like everything was fine. Even thought it wasn’t. This year was good for all of us for totally other reason. My ex and I got along and when I was distracted this year and told him that we needed a costume he came through. It was a rush job, but he sewed a Jedi costume that was beautiful. (Okay I should probably stop here and explain that we didn’t actually break up then. Well, we did. We ended up, three years later, getting back together. And that’s how G calls my ex Daddy even though it would seem we broke up years before he was born. Because we did.) But back to the story….It was ASAP because G’s school told the parents last minute that the kids could wear costumes to Fall Fest TWO weeks before Halloween and only ONE week before Fall Fest. We were in a scramble. It was last minute because the principle hates Halloween, but the PTO and the teachers finally convinced her to let the kids wear them to Fall Fest. Not the actual day, but it’s a start. So I was in a mean place when I complained and yelled that he never helps, but he came through and I’m completely grateful because G got to be what he really really wanted to be and he felt great and he looked great and that’s half the battle of Halloween. The other factor that made Halloween great was  that thanks to the bitchy-Halloween-hating principle G had his costume two weeks early and got to wear it everywhere. He wore it to the hippie neighborhood preschool’s annual Halloween Fundraiser where I ate gluten and sugar and left with a headache, but it was a happy headache. And then when Halloween finally arrived he wore it downtown for the march up Mass St for the merchant sponsored Halloween Trick or Treating extravaganza. We got to see faces we hadn’t seen in months and wave at a few everyday faces. Then he wore it to Pet World’s Haunted House. Let me just say, if you’re a Lawrencian and you’ve never done it, it’s awesome! It’s a fundraiser for The Humane Society earlier in the week, but we didn’t know about it then. We went on Halloween night and it was free and not at the pet store, but at someone’s house. I don’t have great night vision so I didn’t go in. In hindsight I should have because while I’m the bitchy/strict/screeching parent most times, during any holiday I’m the fun parent. We got there before 7, which was when it was supposed to be the age appropriate time, but both G and the ex came out very quiet and looking a little white. He wore it later in the evening for neighborhood Trick or Treating.  I live in an older part of town with big old houses and towering trees. It was the perfect night for Halloween. Our first block was dead and because it’s Lawrence it’s full of old hippies who were dressed as Jimi Hendrix and were drinking wine on the porch. I’m new, but I heard once they know you they hand out beers to the adults. And if we missed a house someone would chase us down with their bowl of Twix, Kit Kat and Snickers. Good candy. Not the cheapo stuff and sometimes there were full sized bars and sometimes they made him take two or three. After two or three blocks I walked back home to put the pizzas in the oven. I almost burned the house down, but that’s a different story. I made pizza and the boys showed up and we ate and we laughed and we told G about the candy, cause he’s a yogi’s kid and doesn’t know a lot about candy and he’s only six so he hasn’t experienced a lot in the world yet. He ate a full-sized Snickers and thought it was pretty good. G crashed pretty hard that night. But, then so did I. I don’t remember our bedtime stories or the songs we sang. It’s hard work being on your best behavior. There were so many times any one of us could have been catty or decided we didn’t want to go along with the group or any number of things could have come up from our past. But it was a peaceful and fun night. And the lesson we all learned that mid-week Halloween night is that our good behavior pays off. By remembering to bite my tongue, even from the little jabs that are so often conversation in our family we had a great/meaningful/fun time. We learned that being together is better than not, even if there’s no longer a marriage that binds some of us. Together we are a family. We may be a funny looking family. I have a new love. And my ex was my first love. Those two thing are true together. I’ve had another love in between. My kids have learned to look at many sources to find guidance/role models/love. There are others that parent our kids, many that care about them and lots that love them. It’s a blessing. And that’s what made it the best Halloween ever

Boston!

Obviously I haven’t been posting consistently, but I didn’t realize that I was so out of touch. I found this post in my drafts folder, complete and just waiting. Poor post, I’m sure it was lonely and thought I forgot it. Well, I did. This is from about a month back. I was in Boston the week of September 13th. Enjoy.

I’m back from a week in Boston with my sweetie. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever known a week to go faster.  It was a week of connection. You may know that J and I now live in separate states, 1600 miles apart. It was a week of sight-seeing. I was actually born in Boston, but haven’t been out there in about 15 years. And it’s always different staying day after day in a city, rather than the day visits I did when my sister was in college out East. It was a week of exercise! I forgot how much you walk and climb stairs in the city. It was a week of healing. Between just spending time together, spooning while we slept, sitting on the beach listening to the ocean and Happy Feet Chinese Massage I feel great! A little tired, but ready to tackle the week here.

So, here’s what I learned this week-cause you know I’m all about the lessons that the Universe is providing for me.

I learned that all that matters is right now. The hurts, traumas, difficulties and struggles aren’t important today. Unless I make them important. If I want to wallow and struggle, I can. But I don’t have to. I forget that a lot. So this week was about being in the moment. And when I remember that, I get to experience my relationship and J in a different way. A better way.

I learned-or remembered that I LOVE the city. I’m partial to Northern, but East, Midwest or West doesn’t seem to matter. I find cities like Austin and Albuquerque enjoyable in a different way.  I’m an extrovert and I’m energized by other people, by traffic and even by cement. Cities like Chicago, NYC, Boston make me feel alive, vibrant, young and happy! And, of course, I’m a water baby and Boston is a great water city.

I LOVE new things. I loved learning the T and eating in new restaurants and even experiencing old foods in a different way. Cause burritos are different everywhere you go…and let’s not even talk about the seafood. God! I ate at least two meals that involved mussels. And while I’m a native Chicagoan and my first job was at Giordano’s, famous for it’s stuffed pizza, Boston can hold it’s own when it comes to pizza. It’s different, but every neighborhood has their pride and joy pizza joint. Maybe even more than Chicago (did I really just write that?).

And all these things taught me a great yogic lesson. Or reminded me. It’s all about being in the moment. It’s what the ancients taught and what Buddha teaches. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy, but when I’m in the moment I am experiencing connection. When I’m in a new place and especially when that new place is a city like Boston I can only be in this moment.

Nothing illustrated that more than my last night. J and I decided it would be a great idea to take the motorcycle to Cambridge cause I hadn’t been to Harvard Square in over 20 years. So we set out at 3:30. Oops. Rush hour was fast approaching and while I trust J, it was the maiden voyage for the motorcycle in Boston. Now, I probably don’t have to point out that taking a leisure ride in Lawrence and surrounding FARMLAND is different than Dorchester to Cambridge. The lesson and really good thing? I made peace with my life. I thought, it’s been good and I don’t have regrets and my kids will be fine.

And that’s scary (and funny), but really, how can you do anything but be in the moment on the back of a motorcycle, with a semi-experienced driver, in a new city to both of you, hurtling through traffic? I was intensely aware of everything around me, the temperature-in the afternoon I was a little warm in the stop and go traffic and then freezing in the evening. I saw Boston in a completely different way, cause it was so different every time I saw it…from a car, walking, from the T, on the back of a bike.

So, I guess the theme of the week was being in the moment. And my work this week is to be in that place even though it won’t be as easy. Do I need a rubber band around my wrist? Or maybe I need to experience my same old, same old surroundings with fresh eyes every time.

I’m working on it. You work on it and we’ll check in.

It wasn’t what I expected

Last week G fell out of bed and I was scared and felt alone and was whiney.

A day later I found out that L, my teenager, has been lying. About everything. She’s not the kid I thought she was. AT ALL. And it’s taking longer to get over it then G’s tumble.

I know, you’re all shocked. A 15-year-old who lies? My kid must be the worst kid on the planet because 15-year-olds never lie and I must be one fucked-up Mother to have one who does.

And she’s been engaging in dangerous behavior. I know…repeat last paragraph.

But here’s the weird thing. I’m actually relieved. And I don’t know why. I don’t know what this feeling of relief is about. I know she feels it too. I think our reasons are different, though. I’m not sure what mine is about, but I’ll tell you what I think in a minute.

Hers, I’m pretty sure is about finally not having to hide and keep secrets and lie. I think hers is about the feeling of knowing you’re doing wrong, but once you’ve said yes once, not knowing how to get out of that cycle.  Not knowing how to say, Hey, this isn’t what I really want. Because when you’re 15 you think all your choices are permanent and you don’t know that you can say, hey I changed my mind. Or Hey, I made a mistake. I’m just learning that lesson now, so I can’t really expect her to have it down pat.

Having your parents find out about your lies gives you a great out with previous said behavior and people you were engaging in said behavior with. Honestly, though, I don’t know if that’s why she’s relieved. I think she must have been scared. I think she must have been unhappy. Having your Mom and Dad swoop in and say, That’s It! This is over!!! Can be some kind of a relief. And after we gave her a chance to come clean and after we talked for almost three hours and after she cried, finally, she slept. And I think she slept well, which is unusual for her.

I think my relief might be about knowing. Before we found out her life was a bit of a mystery to us. And I will fully accept and own my naiveté. She’s been such a good kid. She’s been an amazingly smart, friendly, well-behaved wonderful kid that we just believed everything she told us. There wasn’t any evidence to not believe her, except there was. She’s been dating an older boy for almost a year. It was naive to believe some of that wasn’t going to rub off on her. We certainly weren’t scrupulous about checking up on her. In short, we weren’t good parents. We did not serve our child well.

But there’s another part. This kid has been so perfect. So perfectly perfect. The more A’s she brought home, the more I worried about her. Cause the more she did well, the more I knew she was winding up tighter and tighter. She was so deep in her perfectionism. So, while I’m not happy about how she did it,  I am happy that she showed me she really is just a kid. She’s exploring and figuring out who she is and not as set in her control-driven mind as she used to be. And so, while I don’t want her to continue in these behaviors, I have a starting place now. Cause when she would never miss a day of school and would panic if she thought she was getting an A-, I couldn’t do a lot. But now, I can parent. Now I can help her.

My job is to guide this precious, perfect being into adulthood. It’s not my plan to teach her to be a mini-me, God forbid. And despite what she thinks I have tried to honor her individuality. I have also been clear that her decisions are her own. I know there are a lot of parents out there who think that’s bullshit. There are parents who would say, well look where that got her. A lot of parents are only interested in raising kids who adhere to their parents beliefs, values and rules.

Me, not so much. I believe she’s here to teach me as much as I’m here to teach her. She was so perfect, in the beginning, and I blemished her by being more human than she was early on. That may sound hokey to you, but I am as lucky and blessed to have her in my life as anything.  I believe my job is to raise her to be a happy, productive member of this society and however that works out is fine by me.

So, when I found out all this upsetting information about her I thought long and hard about who I wanted to be. Did I want to be a raving mad women? Did I want to model compassion and mindfulness?  Which behaviors did I want her to copy, with her friends, with her own kids, with her co-workers? Did I really want my hyper-critical voice bouncing around in her head for the next fifteen years or until she finds a great therapist?

And while she’s floored that we’re not mad and I think maybe she thinks she got off easy she will, in time, come to understand and appreciate even more the way we handled this. She certainly lost privileges, not as a punishment, but because more than any other part of my job I need to keep her safe. And she was not safe. Because she’s a kid and because she thinks she’s immortal, she thought she was safe. We all can look back at our lives and think about those teen-aged years and think, Thank God-I could be dead.

And I’ll tell you some of mine. I hitch-hiked….once. I drank. I was sexually active young. I lied to my parents and sneaked around. I cut school…although sometimes it was to catch up on homework, but nonetheless I lied to my parents, teachers and peers.

And here’s the thing. I was a good kid. I came across as a really good kid AND I WAS a good kid. Despite all that other stuff, I was also on the basketball team. I was c0-editor of my high school newspaper, the oldest student published newspaper in the country. I worked on the yearbook and the literary magazine. I didn’t have a boyfriend till senior year. I went to a great college.

So, I’m not an angel, but I wasn’t the worst kid out there. And she hasn’t been an angel, but she’s not the worst kid out there. I was just a kid doing a kid things and she’s just a kid doing kid things. And no matter how scary I think kid things are, they really are just kid things.

And when I thought about who I wanted to be as I dealt with this difficult situation and my wayward daughter that’s what I focused on. I focused on the fact that she was just a kid and she’s just doing kid things and that she’s only wayward. She’s not evil, she’s not a sinner. She’s a bit misguided. And at the end of the day being misguided and making mistakes now when she’s 15 is her job. Literally.  I believe this is her job. I don’t care about A’s. I don’t care about honor roll. It’s nice and it’s good, but this is a kid who is always going to do well. I’m more worried about her spiritual growth.

And I’m more worried about my spiritual growth. So I thought about what would serve me well. Cause I can’t be a ranting and raving parent and expect to raise balanced, happy kids. If I want to be different than my parents, different than what most parents out there do, then I have to make different choices.

And that’s what I told her. This is a kid who wants to be different than the average Kansas kid. She wants a life that’s special and different and regardless of what I think about those desires, those are her desires and I need to honor them. So I told her, if she wants to do things differently than the average Kansas kid, she has to make different choices than the average Kansas kid.

I could have yelled and shamed her. I could have told her she was bad and I was ashamed or disappointed. Not only is that not who I want to be, not the kind of parent I want to be, but it would have done some serious damage. With this kid, with this serious, smart and sensitive kid it would have pushed her farther away from me and further into herself. She’s enough in her own brain already. She’s already convinced of several untruths about herself. She doesn’t see the amazing human I see. And she certainly can’t see her future as clearly as I can.

So we’re tip-toeing through this. We’re picking our way through this mine field of hurt feelings, expectations and fear. I’m trying to figure out how to stay on my side of the street and still be a good, effective parent. She’s trying to figure out how to be vulnerable and she’s dabbling in honesty and she’s thinking hard about who she wants to be. Cause she doesn’t know and how am I supposed to have any expectations cause hell, I don’ know who I want to be yet.

So, as with so many things my sweet, first born baby and I have done, we’re figuring it out together. We didn’t know how to do it 16 years ago and we don’t know any better today. I know, even if she doesn’t, that we don’t have to know. It always works out. It may not work out the way that we thought it would, but we’re always okay.

And if that’s all I can teach her, that’s a pretty good lesson.

Gratitude Wednesday

I’m bringing back Gratitude Wednesday. I’m bringing it back because I seriously need an attitude adjustment. I forget way too often to be in the gratitude. I am alternately feeling too busy or too demoralized to look at what I’m truly thankful for in my life. Whenever things are looking bleak gratitude can change you in an instant.

So, it’s back. Head over to BreatheBlog where Gratitude Wednesday has found a new home. Browse around while you’re there. Sign up for a class or a workshop and let me know what you think of the new website.

Single Parenting & The Fall

George fell out of bed last night. I don’t know that he’s ever fallen out of bed. He’s six. It was the worst noise I’ve ever heard. Well, maybe the second worst, cause the  worst was when my daughter was 5 months old and she flew over my shoulder and landed on the wood floor on her stomach. I was standing.

This was sort of the same noise, except I was in bed. It came out of the blue.

He’s fine. But it was terrifying for those moments it took me to untangle my legs from the sheets and the books and the computer and all the stuff that was on the bed with me. The scream was mortifying. I couldn’t get to him fast enough and I kept thinking about how his bedside table is too big and he surely hit his head and there are things like crates with toys in them all over the floor close to his bed. I was sure I was going to see blood.

He’s fine. He was terrified. He screamed and then there was a weird wail and

then he just cried. It sounded so terrible the fifteen year old climbed in bed with us and lovingly stroked his back while I held him. George is sick. He was on cold medicine. He fell back to sleep in under ten minutes. He’s fine.

I’m not. I tucked a pillow around him and went back to my room. I got back up and wandered our tiny house. I shooed the dog off the couch and put out the tinfoil that keeps him off the furniture at night. I brushed my teeth. I ate half a gluten-free muffin and went to read. I ate  a bowl of cereal and watched Hulu. I ate a hot dog wrapped in wheat bread and then I brushed my teeth again.

I hate single parenting. I was so scared and there was no one to be scared with. And as I was tossing and turning, pacing and eating I was acutely aware of that feeling. Acutely aware of how I hate single parenting. There was no one to grab George while I grabbed the car keys if we needed to go to the hospital. As I was pouring a glass of water I remembered how low the gas tank was. Would I make it to the hospital? Then I remembered that the hospital is only four blocks away. And I could always call 911 if I absolutely had to.

I didn’t hate it cause I needed help. I’m one of the best people I know in an emergency. And there is that highly intelligent, highly capable fifteen year old in the basement. So I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t about being alone.

I wanted to call someone. I wanted to share how scared I was, even if it was only for a few moments. I wanted to crawl into someone’s arms and be thankful that he missed all the crates and things with edges. I wanted to have someone stroke my hair and tell me how lucky we are that George is so laid back and can go right back to sleep after something like that.

I finally fell asleep. I fell asleep after some college students set off fireworks and the dogs went berserk. When I finally settled my racing heart I slept. Fitfully, but I slept.

So the recap for the week is that I love living alone. I hate single parenting.