On Boyhood

When my kids were itty bitty, (Daughter, 5 months and Son, age 2) I made a career change, went to Cosmetology school followed by a 3-year Apprenticeship to become a Color Specialist.  In my years of training, I made minimum wage and was a Single Mother with full-custody.  I worked extremely hard as I was setting myself up for the career I have now.

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In those years, as well as the years after on the road as a Corporate Trainer, I missed a lot.  I never had the option of being a Stay-at-Home Mom and, as I saw it, could not allow myself to feel guilt about any of it.  I had no choice but to push through and provide.  I was fortunate to have a few women who gave me really good advice that at the time I didn’t totally understand but now I do. They said to me that when kids are little, anyone (not literally but someone wonderful other than you) can care for them.  When kids are little, you know when they are hungry, they tell you when they stub their toe.  My daughter, to this day, tells me she is going to the bathroom.  What these women told me is that as kids get older, they need you more.  As your kid gets into Junior High and older, sometimes they don’t say much about their day for a few hours, if at all.  You need to be around and then, when you least expect it, they just start talking.

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This week, a friend of my Daughter’s committed suicide.  She was 11.  This was a new friend of hers so not a family I knew and I have no details on the girl’s life or her family.  It still rocked our world.  Her older Sister is in school with my Son at the high school he just finished his 3rd week of.  A lot of changes going on for him as well.

This week, neither kid has stopped talking for a second.  It reminds me of when they were babies and there was a cacophony of sound.  A constant stream of chatter and someone always saying “Mom!”.  I am so grateful to be closer to home and here for them.  I am so grateful that we have a house of communication. Even with all our arguing and (occasional) door-slamming, we have love and direct talks about our feelings.

I can’t imagine what that family is going through.  It is the worst thing ever.  This isn’t even a teen suicide.  Pre-teen.  What the hell?

I saw the film Boyhood a few weeks ago with my own kids and we all loved it.  What I loved most about it was the reminder that time is precious.  I loved the quote I heard recently by Gretchen Rubin, “The days are long but the years are short.” and watching the children in the film’s faces age, I held my breath for what is in store for me.  My window in getting to raise my own kids is getting smaller and smaller.  What my kids loved about Boyhood was it made their life seem normal.  Single Mom, Brother and Sister, Mom working hard to provide with an occasional difficult choice in partnership. Well-meaning but not totally together Father figure.  Their life.

I am not religious but I do pray.  I pray for the family who lost their Daughter.  I pray for the girl who must have suffered in ways we will never understand.  I pray for my own kids, family and community and give gratitude for our blessings. I pray that I always remember to count my blessings.

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On Heritage Day

For many years, I traveled for work and my kids and family were troopers.  They dealt with me being gone for days at a time and often I worked 16-18 hour days while I would fly across states to teach or conduct meetings and come back.  I was on a plane every week at least twice.  As you can imagine, this was quite a juggling act as a single Mom and looking back on those years, I can’t believe we pulled it off.  Every so often, I had a complete failure and this story is one of them.

 

It was 9 PM on a school night and I had just picked up my then pre-school girl and 1st grade boy from my Mom’s house after a long trip away for work.  We were heading home when I had a sudden moment of bad-mom panic. Tomorrow is HERITAGE DAY at school, I remembered.  A wave of fear flashed over my body as I vaguely recalled the memo that suggested we research our family’s heritage and create a dish to bring to school to share.  And your child would present the dish to the class with a speech about his heritage. The memo gave no direct menu suggestions but I imagined all the lovely Mommies chopping vegetables for Borscht, pressing corn for tortillas or melting chocolate for a French pastry.  A moment of perfect togetherness whilst simultaneously enforcing lineage and traditions. Making memories to last a lifetime….

It was just as we were driving past United Liquors as I had this thought and you know what comes next.

I pulled over.

So my 4-year-old and 6-year-old perused the shelves of our local liquor store with their haggard mother trying to determine what off these shelves could pass for a representation of our heritage?  Certainly I couldn’t bring in alcohol (when, in fact, that probably would be the best representation of our heritage).  What else is there at liquor stores? Beef jerky.  Chips.  Ice Cream.  Gum. Cigarettes.

Pop Tarts

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The next day, my son attended his first grade Heritage Day with 4 boxes of Pop Tarts and gave a short speech about how Pop Tarts are a part of his heritage because whenever he or his Sister get sick, they are allowed to eat Pop Tarts.

We are all “damaging” our kids in ways they will most certainly blame us for later.  We don’t know exactly how the scars will be made.  One friend puts all her loose change in a therapy jar, for future use.  The current, ongoing complaint about me is my cooking and that my solutions are (predictably):

A) Put some Barbeque Sauce on it

Or

B) Why don’t YOU cook dinner

But that, dear readers, is not a real problem in life.  My kids will survive having a Mom that is a shitty cook.  They are surrounded by love and well taken care of.

And the truth is, those kids loved the Pop Tarts.  Better than the Borscht.