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Take a deep breath. Blow it out. Good. Now take another.
That’s what I’ve been doing since returning from trick or treating: reminding myself to live in the moment and breathe. It’s remarkably hard to make myself do this – I tend to get caught up in the details when I ought to be focusing on the big picture.
Last night, instead of enjoying what is likely to be my last trick or treating adventure with Large (he’ll be choosing friends over family all too soon), I was obsessed with Small.
“Did you say, ‘Thank you’?”
“Slow down. Wait for the rest of our group!”
“Freeze means don’t move a muscle. It does not mean walk slower!”
“Stay on the sidewalk!”
“You don’t always have to be first.”
“Wait for your cousins!”
“Have we lost your sister?”
“I didn’t hear a ‘Thank you.’”
I was already teetering on the brink of sanity by the time Large tattled on Small: “Mom, Henry got a granola bar at that house and he said, ‘What the heck is this?’ instead of, you know, ‘Thanks.’”
When the kindling is dry, it doesn’t take much.
I pulled Small aside and scolded him. He was sullen, as most people are in the face of direct criticism and a strongly worded reprimand. I kept him back from two houses and under the pressure of my scowl, he promised to do better.
He’s excited, I told myself as he ran off. Don’t ruin his Halloween.
He bounced back, remembering to thank a whopping 60% of the candy distributors at the rest of the houses we hit and refraining from running over his younger cousins. But I didn’t. My grump cloaked me as thoroughly as Medium’s vampire cape. I couldn’t wait to get home.
My heart hurts at my own idiocy. Why do I let the little things bother me so much? Why can’t I enjoy the moment more?
I’ve got a year to redeem myself. You’ll remind me, won’t you?
Piggy is our family’s mascot and Small’s near constant companion. She has become so threadbare that I fear it will not be long before Small literally loves her to pieces. I have patched her, re-stuffed her, and darned her to the best of my abilities. When I am outside of Small’s hearing, I refer to her as “Frankenpig.” I’m quite sure Piggy doesn’t mind; she cares only for her kid.
A couple of weeks ago, Medium went to Disney World. Without us. She didn’t go alone (obviously) but she wasn’t with any of her immediate family members. She accompanied our friends and their seven-year-old son, A, who are friends-like-family or “framily” to us. (See how I can make up words just like the media? Brangelina, what?) According to her own and eye-witness reports, Medium had a ball and hardly missed us. It’s possible that she didn’t miss us at all but I’m unwilling to consider that because I missed her terribly and couldn’t wait for her to come home.
We live about four hours from Boston, and she flew in and out of Logan International Airport. The day before she was scheduled to return, my husband and I drove to Beantown with the boys and painted the town Piggy-pink. We hit Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, the Boston Museum of Science, Harvard Square and the Hilton Boston Financial District. We rode the “T” multiple times, much to Small’s delight, and listened to a lecture on rockets given by MIT students. We also terrorized the staff at the Harvard Coop Bookstore but there’s no photographic evidence and some things are better left unsaid.
There are so many things I ought to be doing now, but instead of tackling any of those MUST-DOs, I am sitting at the computer, writing, which is a decided NICE-TO-DO. Writing eases my mind; it puts order to the chaos. When I am stressed or even just busy, I make lists. I feel a ridiculously deep sense of satisfaction when I cross items off a list. Done. Done. Finis.
I am trying to get Large to embrace list-making as a way to manage his anxieties but so far, it’s not working.
He’s ten and a half years old. He is a smart, funny, socially-aware kid. He loves to read, tell stories (replete with sound-effects!), sing, dance, and do anything technology related. He is also a tougher critic of himself than anyone ever could be, including me. And I’m no picnic.
Every mother wants success and happiness for her child. But what I’ve come to realize is something I’ve known all along: Wanting isn’t enough. We can’t just want for our children to grow up and become confident, well-adjusted, compassionate adults. We have to actively help them get there. It’s what we do, as mothers – as parents – that counts, if not now, then later on.
Being a parent is often mind-numbing. The stalling. The bickering. The whining. The slammed doors and the I-hate-yous. I am far from being a perfect mother (or wife, but that’s another post) and I am embarrassed to admit how frequently I delve into my fiction cocoon or retreat onto the internet rather than engage, comment and interact with my offspring. Even so, I hold fast to the belief that good parenting is a cumulative process. Consider the little things parents do every day, even when our patience is spread as thin as peanut butter on a piece of Weight-Watchers’ toast. The gentle reminders. The sit-and-do-your-homework speeches. The pep-talks. The these-are-the-consequences dictums. The smiles and hugs and cuddles. The I’m sorrys. The I’m proud of yous.
God, I hope I’m right.
Liam, every one of us learned to walk one step at a time. The luckiest of us had someone’s hand to hold onto. Your family loves you! Don’t ever forget it.
It’s summer. Our days are overflowing with kids’ activities, playdates, camps, house projects, the shrieks of children and their dirty feet. About once a day, I look longingly at the book I am reading and have no time to pick up. Who ever thought that summer days were lazy?
A couple of photos from the climbing camp Large attended at Northern Lights Rock and Ice. For three whole days, he came home physically exhausted but blissfully happy. Good times, good times. What a hambone.
Top Photo: Liam in Focus. Middle Photo: Liam in Red. Bottom Photo: Liam Front and Center.
Photos courtesy of Northern Lights Rock and Ice.
“How was your day, Liam?”
“And there was a lot of dead skin where the cast used to be.”
“Yeah, that happens.”
“He brought in a ball of it.”
“A ball of dead skin. It was, like, this big.” Horrified, I view Liam making a quarter sized circle with his thumb and forefinger via the rear-view mirror.
“Gross! Does his mother know he did this?”
“Probably not. But our teacher saw it.”
“And what did she have to say about it?”
“She started talking about how skin is the largest organ and how it regenerates…”
I am sick to my stomach and speechless.
“…and the best part was that he gave some of it to some of the kids.”
“What?!? No! That’s so gross! You weren’t one of those kids, were you?”
“As soon as we get home, you have to take it out of your backpack and throw it away! What on earth were you going to do with that?”
“I was going to put it under your pillow.”
“I totally got you, Mom.” His impish grin stretched from ear to ear. “Jack did bring in his x-rays though and we all got to see the broken bone in his hand.”
There is a reason that nine year old girls think nine year old boys are disgusting.
It’s because they are.
The worst part is, now I’m wondering if he was actually telling the truth.
*Not his real name.