Saturday, July 11, 2015

In defense of those assholes who tell you to "enjoy every moment"

OK, I would never say that to the parents of young children. That's a dick move. I remember how exhausting it was, how unrelentingly needy they were, how scared I was that I was doing it all wrong, how sure I was I would never again sleep through the night/go to the bathroom by myself/finish the day without food in my hair/get to shave both legs on the same day. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have mild PTSD from those years. It. Was. Hard.

So no, I would never say that to the parents of young children. But here is a thing I would say: Have you ever had your heart utterly, completely broken by someone you missed long after you should have been over it? A romance that marked you, changed you, made some song or some movie or some season or some stupid little joke forever painfully poignant and fraught with loss? Have you just gotten crushed and had to eat ice cream straight out of the carton, seasoned with tears?

Well, those unhinged assholes telling you to enjoy every moment with your little, screaming, sticky children are caught in the throes of precisely that kind of heartbreak. They are looking at you and that soft, dimpled creature and they are remembering only the soft-focused best of that long-gone romance that will never, ever be back. They can't even Facebook stalk this ex because he/she is gone forever, transformed (and, yes, I'm sorry, but it DOES happen so quickly) into an utterly different creature.

Those clouds of soft, wild hair have turned into teen-age dreadlocks or that douchey boy-band hairdo they slick up in the front with gel. Those tiny, dimpled hands reaching for you -- and you, only you, no, not that one, YOU -- are waving 'bye over a broad shoulder as he grabs your car keys and the last $20 from your wallet. That back-of-the-neck baby smell that releases all those happiness chemicals in your brain will be replaced by a teen-age funk that, if weaponized, could bring entire empires to their knees.

Looking at old pictures doesn't really help. In fact, it's sometimes physically painful to haul out the images of those long-gone babies, to see in those round, guileless faces and gummy grins the faint outlines of the adolescent somewhere up ahead. Was he ever that small? (Yes, he was, and I was so, so tired…)

My 15-year-old son recently asked me if I wished he were little again.

"Not really," I said truthfully. "My life is easier now that you're so big and smart and strong, and you can help me with stuff and teach me things. It's a lot of fun to have big kids. But I would love a visit."

"A what?"

"I would love it if I could have 2-year-old you back for about 3 hours," I explained. "I would like to feel the weight of your warm little body in my lap again, and hear that funny immigrant English you spoke in that little helium voice….Just for a little while."


Yeah," I sighed. "It's weird."

But time doesn't work that way. And no, I would never tell the parents of young children to enjoy every moment, because wow, it's a tough time and that's a dick move. But I might say, hey, it's a lot more temporary than it feels right now. The good, the bad, the days that take months to drag by, the months that disappear in a flash. It's all so temporary.

They'll be gone soon. You won't enjoy every moment. But maybe try to consider these incredibly demanding years with the tenderness you would reserve for an intensely felt and ultimately doomed romance.

Because there just isn't enough ice cream in the world for this particular heartbreak.

Gone, baby, gone.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

My big-sister self is back, and she is mighty aggravated

There’s this desk in my room where I sit to write and work and pay bills and generally keep the wheels of our lives turning. I recently walked to that desk and found there was no chair.

“BOYS!” I screamed reflexively. “WHERE IS MY CHAIR?”

My younger son, who’s 10, hollered back, “IT’S IN MY BLANKET FORT. I NEEEEED IT FOR MY BLANKET FORT!”

OK, a couple of things to point out here. When I walk to my desk, I am mentally zeroed in. I am ready to pay the bills or do the work or write the thing, and I have dragged myself away from whatever diverting alternate activity I’d rather be doing (do you guys know about ThredUP? Seriously.), and I am ready. I mean business as I saunter up to that desk, y’all.

Also, I am the big sister. Granted, I am also a 43-year-old mother of two large boy-type children, but some part of me has apparently never gotten past those big-sister years when all I wanted in the world was to be left alone to read in peace and to find my things where I left them and to not have gross little boys always touching my things and moving my stuff and WHY ARE YOU EVEN IN MY ROOM? GAH.

When my kids were small, my big-sister origins were not a problem. I mean, they were little children and mostly helpless and pretty much always in either my lap or my line of sight. They did annoying shit, sure, but it did not generally involve moving furniture or surreptitiously taking my stuff to undisclosed locations, so I kind of forgot about the big-sister years. But as my boys have gotten big and strong and grabby enough to disrupt my environment in truly significant and bewildering ways, that 14-year-old version of myself is suddenly back. And wow, she is super bitchy.

“Son, I know you think you NEED that chair for your blanket fort, but you do not. I need that chair for my butt, so I can sit in it and pay our bills and finish my work. So please go get that chair and bring it to me. And do not take furniture out of my room. That is not OK.”

All of the other chairs in the house were also in this fort, by the way, so you would not think my little office chair would be critical to its infrastructure, but you would be wrong. In making him move that chair, I destroyed his life and proved myself the worst mother on the planet.

Which, to tell you the truth, is OK with me. Someone has to be the worst at this stuff. It can be me. That way it isn’t you! You’re welcome.

I also found that my free weights were a critical part of the infrastructure of this elaborate fort. I found that when, you guessed it, I went to lift my free weights. (That sounds so badass but, you guys, these weights top out at 8 pounds and they are coated in colorful plastic. They’re perfect blanket-fort ballast.)

And forget about being able to use my most favorite giant towel at the pool. That is not my towel anymore, and the way I can tell that is not my towel is that some wet child is constantly wrapped in it. I even bought a new version of it covered in giant pink flowers because I figured none of the boys I live with would want it. And now my reward for teaching them about feminism and gender equality is that they could give a shit if they have a pink floweredy towel. It’s cool, bro. Now we have TWO giant towels – perfect!

I recently took a business trip and, while I was gone, my husband took our older son to get his learner’s permit. Then he posted a picture to Facebook of our baby boy driving my car.

MY CAR. Driving. My. Car.

“Good job, buddy. I’m really proud of you!” I texted to my son that night.

“Thanks for taking him. So why the hell can’t he drive YOUR car?” I texted to my husband.

They didn’t respond. I’m pretty sure they were all in the blanket fort. Or out driving my car.

No, really, this is fine. Just let me know when you're done with it.