Street Ball For The Win! (Ten Reasons I’m Glad My Son Quit the Team)

Street Ball For The Win! (Ten Reasons I’m Glad My Son Quit the Team)

 

My son, 11, has been playing in a basketball league for the past four years.

The poor kid comes from a family of theatre folk and bookish nerds, so when he begged to learn the game and play on the regular, what else were we to do?

Organized Sports are important, right? I  read it somewhere everywhere. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re a homeschooling family, and while this educational path has many advantages, team sport opportunities are not on the list.

So we put him in a league. He loved it. Life went on, (minus our free Saturdays, of course).

Late last Spring, when 11 announced that he didn’t feel like playing in a league anymore, I’ll admit I was sort of bummed. After all, basketball was his thing and, even with the hoop in our driveway,  I was worried that without scheduled practices and games, he’d never have an opportunity to play. 

As parents, my husband and I had a choice: make him play, because team sports have been so good for him and he’ll be glad he pushed through, or let him quit, and find something else that he loves. At times like these, I have this guy in my head, telling me what “the right thing to do” is:

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But part of my problem is that I also have this guy knocking around up there, telling me to take a chill pill and stop with the fascist parenting:

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Together my husband and I decided that it’s basketball, not dental hygiene. If he wants to skip it, fine. Finish out the last few games of the season, we told him, and that’ll be it.

Not long after he played his last league game, 11 asked me to take him to a park, a few miles from our house.

Not much was happening there, unless you count a soccer class for some pre-schoolers, suited up in safety gear like a liliputian S.W.A.T team, a few personal trainers barking orders and flinging kettle bells around, and a D-list celebrity, puffing his way around the track with an iPhone strapped to his arm.

(Oh, LA, how I love thee).

But for a boy with a basketball and an afternoon to kill, not exactly a happening place.

I asked if he wanted to stay, and he did.

I asked if he was ok if I walked a few laps, and he was.

As I made my way around the dirt path, he practiced layups on the blacktop, then free throws, and eventually sat down on his ball and kind of stared into space.

This sucks, I thought.

On my next lap around, I noticed that a couple of guys had shown up. They weren’t 11’s age, in fact, they looked to be in their early twenties. I caught 11’s eye, making sure he was cool and got a thumbs up, my signal from him to keep walking.

By the time I completed one more lap, a fierce game of three on two was on.

Two hours later, 11 and I were both exhausted and happy, and I was convinced. After four years of being a basketball mom, schlepping my son to league practices, Saturday morning games, “shoot outs” (I know what those are now), and trophy ceremonies where “everyone is a winner!”, I became a street ball zealot.

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11 in a typical game of pick-up ball at our park, photo taken on the sly 🙂

The following is a list of  reasons why I love that my son has chosen to forgo league play for the unorganized, untamed, unprocessed pastime of street ball, which can be played at our local city park for exactly zero dollars:

  1. No fair? No problem. One-on-one is fair, unless one player is a seven year old with an eyepatch, and the other is a high school senior with a basketball scholarship and an hour to kill. Que sera sera!
  2. He plays with people of all ages, races, economic backgrounds, and skill levels. You want to play? You’re in.
  3. He risks failure, and by failure, I don’t mean losing. Occasionally, my son shows up with his big goofy grin and his sneakers double knotted and no one is there. When this happens, my son calls it “a fail.” I call it a bonus! Whether asking someone out on a date, starting a business or writing a blog, the good stuff in life isn’t orchestrated for us, and all of it requires a certain amount of risk.
  4. No refs means he works it out, old school. Unlike what I’ve seen with league play, this almost never involve screaming or the throwing of tantrums (and that’s just the coach I’m talking about).
  5. He has a second home. No matter where he goes in the world, if he can find a hoop, a ball, he’ll be in familiar territory. If he’s lucky, he can make a friend. The world can be kinda shitty sometimes and, I say, the more places you can feel at home, the better.
  6. He has to talk to strangers. Again with the risk taking. Here’s how he does it, near as I can tell: he shows up, lurks around, shoots a few layups all casual-like, then asks if he can get in on whatever game is in play. Can you imagine??? Me neither. So cool.
  7. He’s unplugged. I’m always on the lookout for fun that doesn’t include a glowing rectangle in front of my boy’s face. Luckily, we need look no further than our local park. Street ball is analog fun at it’s finest.
  8. No buzzer kills the mood. When things are hopping on the blacktop, games can last way longer than the hour that a usual league game is allowed to go. More play time means more fun, more exercise, more practice, and one more lap around the track for me.
  9. He does it for his own bad self. Not only am I not expected to watch his every move in a pick-up game, but he prefers that I ignore him completely. He probably waves me off because having your mom hang around and beam at you is a little dorky, but I prefer to think it’s because, at the park, he’s playing for his own enjoyment, not for cheers, gold stars, or the requisite post-game snack of Go-gurt and Hi-C that some very together mom always shoves at him. Also, no one has ever received a basketball scholarship for street ball. What a relief.
  10. No trophies! Those of you who have had your kids in organized sports will understand why this is a grand thing. You understand because you too have a box of crappy plastic trophies that your child has been given for just existing, and you are as sick of them as I am. Even my son knows they’re bullshit. Anyway, no trophies will be coming at you for shooting hoops at the park, no sir. For his time, commitment and skinned knees 11 will only receive a slight sunburn (bad mom), and some pretty useful life skills.

Of course it’s possible that 11 will turn around tomorrow and ask to join a league again (kids are weasels, after all). That’s ok. But never again will I buy into the idea that team sports need to be organized. We’ll continue to take back a corner of our park for play, with our own, tiny, everyday act of rebellion: showing up.

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My Homeschooling Confessions

My Homeschooling Confessions

Back to school time, my friends!

Or not.

I haven’t talked about homeschooling on this blog yet, mainly because when I mention it to people at first, I often get a look like this:

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I get it.

Even though it’s becoming more and more common, it’s still sort of a fringe thing and a lot of people have yet to know any of the thousands of self directed learners that are quietly kicking ass out there in the world.

Because I’m in a mood, I’m just straight up going to tell you a few things that might surprise you about how my family does it.

I’m coming clean, people!

If you’re a homeschooler, please feel free to make your own confession in the comments at the end. I think we could all afford to let our hair down a bit.

If your kids are attending a traditional school, my hope is that this post will entertain and enlighten you just enough to keep you from putting me in the weirdo box.

Here goes:

I don’t homeschool my kids.

Wait, what?

There are those parents who sit their kids at a table and “do school,” with their state standards in one hand and an American flag/bible/green smoothie/Harvard brochure (take your pick– I might as well offend everyone) in the other.

The best kept secret is that most kids are perfectly capable and completely driven to learn, once released from the system of compulsory schooling. Homeschooling is not something that’s done to anyone. As for me, I research, pay, drive, fiercely defend free time, and help out when asked.

Also, I make a stupid number of grilled cheese sandwiches.

I don’t want to be with them all the time.

“I’d go crazy if I were with my kids all day!” people say.

Although I do know people, nice people, not lunatics, who don’t seem to need a time-out from their kids, I for one require frequent  breaks from my boys and their scintillating conversations around Minecraft, parkour, basketball and farting.

Of course, I’m always there for the wholesome family dinners and in depth discussions on the plight of global indigenous people (a mom can dream), I make sure to have occasional social plans that do not include my boys, and they have plenty of opportunities each week to get away from their ever-loving mother. Thus, we enjoy domestic bliss!

And also not killing each other.

I don’t have teaching credentials, or even a college degree.

And as if that’s not enough, I hardly remember any math beyond the fifth grade level, and am pretty iffy on the proper use of a semi-colon. I’m not proud of this, in fact, I spend a lot of time trying to fill in gaps in my own education.

But guess what?

Go online and take a look at what is now available free, to those who want to learn. Boy howdy, things have changed in the past twenty years! Add to this the fact that there are classes, homeschool co-ops, the help of smart friends, etc., and I can sleep pretty well knowing my kids aren’t going to end up like this:

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I get bored sometimes.

This is a tough one, since whining about boredom can get you an epic eye roll from stressed out moms with too much to do and not enough time, money, or both. It’s not fair that our culture expects so much of women and gives so little support, and I know a few of you would probably give your right arm and last Ambien for a little boredom in your life.

Roll your eyes, sister, feel free!

But to the mothers who look at me and say, “I could never homeschool, I’d be so bored!” let me tell you that I do get bored. Because they are not quite old enough to go to the beach or run around town on their own, I go with them. I wait while they are in a science class, or basketball practice. There are days when I’m completely swallowed in the mind numbing dullness of just waiting.

Oh well, big f’n deal. You can always piss away the hours working on your blog 🙂

I had a career, and sometimes I miss it.

There is an assumption people sometimes make about parents who choose to quit their job to be at home with their kids, and that is that they must not have had much of a job to quit in the first place.

Once upon a time, I had a career and it was lucrative, rewarding and fun, but as we learned more about homeschooling, it became clear to my husband and me that we wanted to give it a shot. We loved the freedom of it and I was up for the challenge.

And this is a topic for another post, but it has to be said, so I’m saying it: I am aware that we were crazy fortunate to be able to make that decision.

Here’s the thing, it’s not that you can’t work full-time and travel this educational path, you can, mainly because this path is one you make yourself. But it’s a trickier balance, and one I couldn’t quite figure out, even though I tried.

So, while I miss being offered coffee, hearing, “good job!”, and working for real live dollars that would come in very handy, it’s totally worth it.

My kids have never written a book report or done a science fair project.

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The upside of this is that I’ve never had to force, bribe or bully them into doing a book report/science fair project, and p.s., we’ve saved major bucks on Mentos and Pepsi.

The downside is that they might never make it in The Real World without the experience of the book report/science fair project, and will probably live at home until their mid-thirties, playing video games in our garage.

Welp, hindsight is 20/20, people.

I consider homeschooling my job.

I take it seriously, and even if we spend some days playing Battleship in our jammies, most of the time we have shit to do, even if it doesn’t look like it to you. So, while I totally love the fact that we have the freedom in our schedule to help friends out when they need it, I don’t call you at your office and ask you to come wait for the cable guy for me, since “you don’t work”, because that would be obnoxious, right?

Right.

I am not any more patient than you.

Here’s something we homeschoolers hear a lot: “I gotta hand it to you. I wouldn’t have the patience.”

Newsflash– I don’t have the patience either! Holy shit– someone call the patience police!

Of course,  I make it a little easier on myself by not forcing my kids to do book reports/science fair projects (sorry, I couldn’t resist), but my temper flares up big-time when we’re running late. I lecture, I yell sometimes, I just pretty much lose it in general. The only difference is that when I screw up, I have the luxury of time during the day to breathe, apologize, and move forward. It’s true that since we’re together more, there’s more opportunity for conflict.

But there’s also more time for the good stuff too, including practicing the art of repair.

I sometimes worry about what my kids are missing.

It might surprise you to know that I’m not talking about social stuff. Homeschoolers are nothing if not social, and I’m actually so bored by that worn out argument, circa 1970, that I can’t even bring myself to write about it.

No, instead I worry that they might not know all the words to the Star Spangled Banner, how to locate the spleen in a frog, make a spitball or work a combination lock.

I wonder if my youngest will have to teach himself cursive when the zombie apocalypse happens and the only people who survive are cursive-writing people, which might be unlikely, but this is where my mind goes at night, you guys.

For every hour someone else spends worrying about whether their kid will get into the gifted and talented magnet, I spend an hour wondering if my kids will look at me one day and say, “WTF were you thinking, Mom???”

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And maybe that’s our common ground.

We’re all doing our best, and it still might not be good enough, whether we checked all the boxes, or ignored the boxes completely. In reality, most of us fall somewhere in between. We all lose our patience, need a break, adore our kids and hope for the best.

Here’s to a great year ahead, whatever path you make 🙂

Come On Get Happy! Road Trip 2016

Come On Get Happy! Road Trip 2016

Our family is about to embark on an epic road trip where we will explore as much of the western half of this country as can be done in two weeks.

“Now’s the time,” friends have told me. “Once they’re teenagers, it will be a much harder sell.”

Old Faithful!

The Grand Canyon!

Quality Time and free continental breakfasts for all!

It’s going to be great.

Except, you know how some horror movies will begin with, oh, say, a nice family packing for a summer vacation, and it all looks so fun but you KNOW it’s all about to get very scary?

I’m kind of flashing on that, y’all.

First of all, I’ve got two boys, each of whom get carsick on the elevator to their 5th floor orthodontist’s office. Because of this, a road trip feels just a tiny bit risky.

And of course, there’s the fact that they are eleven and thirteen, the age when kiddos really turn on the charm.

(You feel me, moms?)

Then there’s my husband and I.

We have been married fifteen years which he always points out, in Los Angeles, is “a pretty good run.”

Such a romantic.

And while Chris and I are all good with the daily routine, exploring the road less traveled (especially if it’s crammed with tourists in socks and sandals) with all it’s novelty, can sometimes bring out the worst in us.

You know, just a little.

One thing about C. is that he truly wants to make his family happy. (Side note: I am proud to say that, while very tempting, I have never used this to my advantage, as evidenced by the fact that we have neither a chicken coop, nor a manny.)

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I also have a thing about making my family happy, albeit with slightly more of an edge than my husband. Oh yes, I want to make them happy and keep them happy, by god, or die trying!!

In that way (and a few others), we are all batshit crazy.

So a family road trip with us could look something like this:

Four hours into a seven hour drive, one child might whimper, “I don’t feel so good.”

I hand him a plastic Subway bag, to which he responds, “Don’t Mom, you’re making it worse!

They ask how many more miles, and does the motel have a pool.

Four hundred ninety-seven and no, it does not.

T. asks for more room in the backseat, prompting C. to poke his older brother with a fruit roll-up, which inspires T. to fart, then blame the fart on C., forcing C. to retaliate with, what else?

More farting. (Did I mention he is eleven?)

I unroll the windows.

“Look over there!” My husband says then, pointing to an awesome rock formation which looks, you gotta kind of admit, a lot like the last awesome rock formation. “See that??”

Busy licking orange dust out of an empty Doritos bag from three states ago, the little darlings don’t respond to their father, which leads to a very slight tensing of his lower jaw, invisible to to the naked eye unless, of course, the naked eye is my super-human-bionic -mother-eye.

It is then that some very ancient neuron in my brain, buzzing from too many pecan logs and Snapples, fires, and I, for reasons I am not wholly conscious of, set about “lightening the mood” with a friendly game of License Plate Bingo. I crank the audio version One Hundred and One Native American Folk Tales (educational and fun!) and take another family selfie.

#Blessed!

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When both my boys were preschool age, I went to an amazing therapist. (If you read this blog then you know I’m no stranger to the couch.)

I went to her because I was feeling anxious during the long hours I spent alone with my son and newborn baby, and I couldn’t figure out why. Like many new moms, I thought that all I wanted was for my kids to be happy. (This was before Facebook and articles like this that, like a good freinemy, are both helpful and shaming. Now we know better—then, we were totally fucked up.)

No matter what I tried, C. would still have long crying jags in the middle of the night and T. flipped out when riding in his carseat. Everyone else always seemed to be enjoying themselves. What was wrong with us??

“It just feels like someone is always upset,” I said. “I don’t know what to do.”

“So,” she began, all casual-like, “What would a good day look like, for you and the boys?”

I tried to figure out what the right answer was. I knew I needed therapy, but I desperately wanted her to think I didn’t. “Well, I guess if everyone’s happy, then it’s been a good day.”

Nailed it, I thought.

A single mother with two grown kids of her own, she smiled and said, “You might need to rethink your definition of a good day.”

She told me that when you’ve got two kids under five, a day that ends with everyone in one piece might just be as good as it gets.

One kid crying in my arms with a fever while the other watches yet another episode of What Not To Wear in his bouncy seat? Good day.

Honey Bunches of Oats for dinner while wearing our pajamas. (From yesterday?) Good day.

Staying at the fancy Children’s Museum in Beverly Hills for thirty minutes before having to leave with two sobbing kids because C. pooped in his rain boots? Good Day.

My feeling ok had been dependent on their smiling faces and let me tell you, that shit can drive you nuts. Realizing that I do not operate the on/off switch for anyone’s happiness, and changing my whacked idea of what a good day looks like was, ironically, the key to happiness.

My own, anyway.

And it’s probably also the key to

a totally awesome road trip

a super fun road trip

our road trip 🙂

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Mother’s Helper

Mother’s Helper

The boys and I have been involved in a film making project with several other families that has pretty much eaten up our lives for the past few weeks. The kids are learning a ton and having a great time, which makes it all worth it (I think), but the adults are not faring quite so well under the weight of twelve to fourteen hour days and some pretty rough working conditions. I’ll tell you more later, after time has worked it’s magic and I have regained my will to live.

But anyway…

It was my youngest son’s birthday a few days ago, during all this madness, and a twelve hour day was on the books. I got up early to heat up a store-bought coffee cake for breakfast, reminded him, with a big hug, that we’d be having a few friends over for a celebration next week, I love him very much, and could he feed the cat.

Somewhere during the long hot day, I mentioned that it was C’s birthday, and another one of the moms suggested I run out and get some cupcakes so we could celebrate together and he could blow out the candles, you know, the way you like to do when you are newly eleven.

“Oh, that’s so sweet,” I said. “No, it’s ok.”

“But it’s his birthday,” she told me, managing to make it sound kind, not accusing. She was in charge of the project and wanted me to know that it was alright to take a few minutes out, for C.

“Yeah, I know, but he’s fine, really,” I answered, sort of missing her point, now that I think of it. “He’s having a little party next week.” That was true, but the real reason I was brushing her off was that, with all the food allergies and aversions in this group, serving cupcakes, or anything other than an epi-pen, was simply a bigger hassle than I was up for. Plus, I knew we were on a tight schedule and that, by the end of the day, everyone would be more than ready to pack up and go home.

“You’re sure?” She asked.

My youngest son is pretty low maintenance, probably due to having me as a mother. I maintain that this will serve him well, even if it’s sort of a drag in the early years. Some may call that rationalization on my part (BINGO!), but I consider it a public service to raise a kid who does not think the world is his oyster. (Sorry, Louise Hay.)

“Yeah, thanks, I’m sure,” I answered, sucking down some more coffee.

And that was that.

At the very end of the day, we were all sweaty and bleary eyed, when a big tray of cupcakes birthday-cake-380178__180appeared, complete with shimmering candles for my boy to make one special sure-to-be-granted birthday wish. Kids and grown-ups gathered around, belting out the appropriate song to his shy smiling face.

He was so happy.

And so was everyone else. Forget the the loaves and fishes, coming up with vegan, gluten free, sugar-free, nut-free cupcakes at the last minute , now that’s a miracle. For a moment, I had forgotten that it feels really good to sing loud and cheer at the end, it just does, and it feels good to wish someone well.

Turns out, it was just the lift we all needed.

I found the mom, my friend Keren, who had made the moment happen, and hugged her. It was a little thing she had done, sure, but it was also big. Her kindness didn’t reflect poorly on me, far from it. Gestures like that make us all look good.

While men wage wars, we wage community.

We read a lot about mommy wars and alpha moms. The media paints a picture of women who are hell bent on raising the bar so high, the rest of us can only stare up at it, slack-jawed, downing a Redbull with one hand and giving her the finger with the other.200

Oh yeah, apparently, we have it out for each other.

By the way, I get that I’m part of the problem. I write about these very people on this blog.  I do it because it can be fun to laugh at the lengths to which we all go, or won’t go, to be good at momming. I write about it because the stakes are so high and because I am wildly insecure.

Plus, I can be an asshole, so there’s that.

But I just want to make a little space here for the truth. The truth is that, while there was absolutely that time the lady at the DMV gave me the stink-eye for breastfeeding in line, there was also that time when a friend took my son into the waves to play so I could sit my tired ass in the sand with my newborn, feeling that postpartum mix of wonderful and horrible.

Did this threaten me and make me resent her joie de vivre? Hell no! I wanted to give her a foot massage and a Margarita for doing the one thing I just couldn’t, at that moment, do.

Or like when I had the flu, and that mom I thought was sort of bitchy (ugh– how she always finds ways to remind me that “she has a very demanding career”), offered to pick up my fourth grader and keep him all Saturday so I could sleep, a favor my son repaid by barfing all over the back of her Escalade.

Get this– when she told me about it, she was actually laughing. God bless her.

Or how about when I turned away, just for a second, and that mom with the PhD and yoga butt flipped my gasping toddler upside down, and out fell the windpipe-sized Lego guy, and I wanted to mouth kiss her there on the spot? Did I feel like an idiot? Yes. Did I wish she didn’t always have to be all show-offy and super-mommish? Lord no.

I think you catch my drift.

I am so grateful to the mothers who step in when my ass needs saving, and it happens all the time, with problems big and small.

We are so lucky to have each other.

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The Rules for Moms Are Ridiculous. So I Broke One.

The Rules for Moms Are Ridiculous. So I Broke One.

Every once in a while, I over-share.

This might be one of those times.

Against the advice of counsel, I submit to you a recent conversation I had with my BFF JoDee, in which I make a confession, and she reassures me that I am not so special, after all.

 

Me: You know when you break an unwritten rule and suddenly you feel like anything could happen? Like all bets are off because you did the thing you’ve never done? That happened to me just now.

JD: What was the thing?

Me: Well, you know those little single servings of wine? The ones in the grocery store that come in little separate jars?

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JD: Yeah.

Me: I bought one and I’m drinking it in the parking lot while C. is at basketball practice. (she laughs) It’s the driving that’s eating me alive, JoDee. I drove, like, 87 miles today and I’m not even done yet. I had two hours to kill here in suburbia, and I just wanted it.

JD: Maggie, that’s not a big deal.

Me: It’s not?

JD: No.

Me: I was worried the cashier at the store could smell my desperation. It was like when I bought condoms at eighteen, or tampons at thirteen. I had to fill my basket with all this other stuff: cheese, crackers, salami, so it would be like, “oh, look at the nice lady, she must be going on a romantic picnic or something.”

JD: Except that wine totally sucks. No one drinks that stuff on purpose.

Me: Yeah, that’s the giveaway.

JD: But it’s not like you were driving someplace anytime soon.

Me: No, I was parked. Plus, I only drank one. The other little serving I threw in the trash so I wouldn’t be tempted. That’s the new line, I guess— only one plastic cup of crap wine in my car.

JD: I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Me: Have you ever crossed the line?

JD: Sure. One time I was traveling for work and I got back to my hotel room and ordered a whole pizza and, since I didn’t want to drink an entire bottle of wine, I got a four pack of those little stackable wines. I tossed the pizza but I drank three of those bad boys and had to throw the fourth away just to save myself. That was sort of crossing a line, for me anyway.

Me: Maybe a cry for help but hardly a binge, by any standard. And you were in a hotel room, without your kids.

JD: I know, looking back I don’t know what my problem was. I should have just gotten the bottle. Why all the shame? Women need to give themselves a fucking break. If you want one tiny jar of bad wine, have it.

Me: And there must be a demand, right? I mean, some focus group got together and said, yes, people need those single serving wines. The mothers have spoken!

JD: I like how they have those tin foil tops, just like yogurt containers.

Me: Yeah, we moms are good at those. They should just get real and have a logo of a mini-van on the front. You know, marketing.

JD: Seriously.

Me: And why is having one of those any different than a Xanax, or whatever the fancy ladies are doing these days?

JD: It’s not.

Me: It’s totally not! But I can’t just go buy one Xanax at Ralph’s, even if I wanted to. So don’t judge me, you pilates taking, SUV driving mommy, with your socially acceptable pills.

JD: Well, you take pilates.

Me: Yeah, but I fucking hate it.

(Here there is a long but comfortable silence, as I watch the sun set over the San Gabriel mountains and settle in for another hour and a half of waiting. My little cup, empty now.)

JD: I’m sorry you had to buy your own tampons.

Me: It’s ok. Mostly I shoplifted them.

 

I listened to JoDee making dinner on the other end of the line and by the time we hung up, it was dark and I was better.

It was communion, right there in my Honda.

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And now, a very special PS, for those who think I’m one messed up matron:

First off, you could totally be right.

When I wrote this post, sitting around with a few other women at a kid thing (yes more waiting), I expressed my concern that it might not be the best judgment call to post about drinking in my car while technically on duty. After sharing a bit about the nature of what I’d written, they laughed knowingly, which I took as a good sign. One of them, a friend of mine who had blogged for a while and knew a thing or two about how things can be interpreted or misinterpreted, said she understood my hesitation.

But then it came to me:

I have happily given up a lot to be a mother, but I won’t give up my voice.

Shit happens in the trenches, my friends. Thanks for reading 🙂

In which I realize that I am more like a thirteen year old than I thought (plus a contest!)

In which I realize that I am more like a thirteen year old than I thought (plus a contest!)

My first born turns thirteen tomorrow! Holy cannoli, where did the time go??

Ok look, the truth is that I have never been that mom who asks “where did the time go?” It’s been thirteen years, and I am here to tell you that it seems like thirteen years, but that doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t being pulled apart at the thought of my baby growing up.

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One thing being a mother has taught me is how possible it is to have two or more emotions flood you to the brim, at the same time. I have found the parenting journey (cringing as I type that. Parenting journey??? Geez. Who have I become?) to be more fulfilling, humbling and exhausting than I expected. With thirteen comes a break in the physical labor of parenting, and a sharp uptick in the mental toil.

I’m ready. (ish)

I know the next years will probably be a bit, shall we say, rocky. As my boy treads in the bracing water of adolescence, I belly flop into the river of peri-menopause, in my Target swim skirt. It’s new territory for both of us, so at least we have that in common. In fact, we are probably sharing more now than we have in a dozen years, back when I nursed him through the night, providing him with milk in exchange for those blessed calming hormones that got me through. I remember in the morning we would wake smiling at each other (no memories of the tense 3:00am cursing under my breath. Oh yes, we’ve all done it), and I’d have just a moment with him before the veil lifted.

Sigh…

Please pardon that little stroll down memory lane that leads,

as you can see,

nowhere,

really.

A side affect of waning estrogen is that I occasionally lose my train of though or forget where I was going. Actually, it probably does lead somewhere, somewhere very profound, only my glasses are steamed up from a hot flash so I can’t see where the hell I’m headed! 

Oh, and that that rage thing? That’s hormonal too. My adolescent child deals with this temporary problem by playing his guitar cranked “to eleven” or doing backflips off the couch, while I head to my trusty key board and type into the void.

My apologies.

Not to change the subject, but hey, you guys! It’s World Poetry Day! And it just so happens that I have a poem to share here, by one of my all-time faves, Anne Sexton.

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She was a troubled soul (understatement) but God, could she get to the heart of things. In keeping with this post’s theme, thus far, please enjoy:

Young

A thousand doors ago

when I was a lonely kid

in a big house with four

garages and it was summer

as long as I could remember,

I lay on the lawn at night,

clover wrinkling under me,

the wise stars bedding over me,

my mother’s window a funnel

of yellow heat running out,

my father’s window, half shut,

an eye where sleepers pass,

and the boards of the house

were smooth and white as wax

and probably a million leaves

sailed on their strange stalks

as the crickets ticked together

and I, in my brand new body,

which was not a woman’s yet,

told the stars my questions

and thought God could really see

the heat and the painted light,

elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.

Let’s just sit with that for a second. She’s so good.

 

Ok, next up, a contest…

One thing that real bloggers with lots of readers do is have contests. In the spirit of fake it ’til you make it, I am going to have my own Tiny Contest! Please email me directly, or leave in the comments below, or post on this blog’s FaceBook page, a piece of advice you really wish someone had given you when you were thirteen. The first person to do so will get their very own free copy of Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems, sent directly to you! You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter, as they say, but let’s just face it, your odds are pretty good. (Hope you don’t mind that it’s gently used, since I just found it on my book shelf next to another one of the exact same book. I have an Amazon addiction. It’s a disease).

Maybe I’ll press a flower in it, seeing as how it’s now officially Spring, and all 🙂

 

 

Pi Day and Other Things I’m Supposed To Be Interested In

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It’s Pi Day, but I’m sure you’ve heard that by now. It’s everywhere.

Suddenly, it’s a big thing to celebrate and if you don’t take your kids out for pie (get it??), or better yet, bake your own special Pi pie while wearing your ironically cool Pi t-shirt and humming this catchy little tune, then you’re fairly sucking at the whole parenting experience. But still, no matter how many people explain Pi to me, I don’t get it and I can’t care.

Days like this always remind me of a quality in myself I’d rather forget, but that I feel, for the sake of others in the closet, I need to cop to right here and right now: There are a lot of things I’m supposed to get all excited about that pretty much bore the shit out of me.

But first, because I haven’t quite conquered my approval seeking nature, I think I’ll share a list of things that, prior to having kids, used to bore the shit out of me, but that I now find super interesting:

  • Second hand smoke
  • BPAs
  • Newberry Awards
  • Cost of college tuition
  • Bullying/asshole kids
  • GMO labelling
  • Internet porn
  • Smoothies

So see? Parenting has indeed opened my eyes to the bigger world and, to the best of my ability, I’m on it, I promise.

But one thing about being a mother that I wasn’t expecting, is how many things we’re suddenly supposed to be interested in, even if we’re really not. I remember talking to my therapist when my son was about two years old, about how I just couldn’t play Little People with him anymore.

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I know. I spent money to deal with this problem.

But at the time it felt like a life sentence. It felt like, if I had to get down on the floor for even one. More. Minute. And make the little yellow haired plastic guy talk to the little orange haired plastic girl, I was going to seriously lose my shit. I don’t know. I was really worked up about it at the time, go figure.

Here we are years later, and I’m still feeling the pressure to get super excited about things that leave me cold. Only this time, it’s not my kids who are sending the message, but some all-seeing parental force that has no name, but that I shall just call People Who Are Super Into It, Smarter, and Probably Younger. PWASISPY, for short.

Here’s a list of things the PWASISPY does that I don’t/ can’t/ have zero interest in:

  • Learn Minecraft.
  • Do shit like this
  • Dress up on Halloween
  • Read Harry Potter fan fiction
  • Stand in line for sixteen hours on the day the new Star Wars movie opens with thermoses of hot cocoa and Princess Leia braids
  • Understand and get very excited, VERY fucking turned on by the concept of Pi

God, they have so much fun! The PWASISPY go camping and love it. They build really complicated thingamajigs in the backyard and launch them.

Ok.Clearly this might warrant just one more trip to therapy. And if I went, what would I say?

That somewhere deep inside, I think, If Only.

If only I could do these things, my son would open up to me more. He’d feel so loved and understood that he would share with me when the girl he’s crushing on likes another boy, and how that makes him feel. I’d know what he’s really truly afraid of, if he secretly wishes that he were as tall as the other kids or (gulp), that he had a funner mom.

Ugh. That old chestnut.

Once again and as always, it’s no one else’s deal but mine. There’s no looming dark cloud of judging super-people out there, just my own craving for confirmation that I’m doing OK here, because when it comes to a job like raising kids, we just never know, do we?  I look Out There to tell me what to do, while simultaneously claiming not to care what anyone thinks.

As I ponder this flaw in my nature, I’ll make my kid’s favorite lunch and bask in the knowledge that, while I don’t know thing one about Pi, I do make a kick-ass grilled cheese.

Oh, and a very happy Pi Day, to those who celebrate it.

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