Tag Archives: Growing Up

Four

In February of 2010 Emily was little.  She was unabashed.  She danced in the driveway and she didn’t take long to get dressed.  She had bangs.  She liked zip-up hoodies and sunglasses and the more accessories, the better.  The Universe was all Emily’s.  She wasn’t selfish but the only life she had ever known was one that was all about her.  Today she went to a book fair at school and came home with several books for Lucy. “Because just because she is too little for school doesn’t mean she doesn’t get books, right?” 

IMG_1124

I don’t know exactly why I went digging through old pictures. Emily said something hilarious and followed it up with “Don’t put that on the Internet.” And I tried to remember when she became self aware.  Was it last year?  The year before? The year before that?  She has changed more in the years since Lucy was born than she did in her entire life prior.  She became something new.  She is a Big Sister now.

Maybe that is what is different.

I tell her she is still my little girl.  I tell her that she is lucky that she had me all to herself for so many years.  I tell her that I love her.  But sometimes I fear she will read through these posts someday and wonder where she is…. all this schmaltz about Lucy, what about me?

Emily June,

I am writing my story so I don’t forget.  And when you looked at me on New Year’s Eve after I took a perfectly hilarious video of you and said “Don’t put that on the Internet” it crushed me a little bit.  Not because I wanted to show the whole damn world how hilarious you are (well, maybe a little) but because I am afraid that as you get bigger and your story becomes yours to tell and I write less of it down… I will forget.  I will forget the moments, the details, perhaps, but I won’t forget the Big Stuff.  I promise.

You and I have butt heads this week. Big time.  We had the first of many screaming matches that ended with us both in tears and me saying “Listen, Em, I’m not your friend, I am your mother.  I know you are mad, and I am sorry.  If I knew a way to be your mother without making you mad I’d do it.  I am making this up as I go along, kid, and I don’t know much but I know I am supposed to be your mom first.  I can be your friend in between the cracks, but my first job is to be your mom.”  And you hugged me and you cried and you told me that it is so confusing.  You told me that you do respect me and you’re sorry that you get so mouthy but sometimes it just feels like you are with your friend when we are together.

I held you tight and I cried a little louder.  Because when you said I feel like your friend I felt like I was failing you as your mother.  But succeeding as a person.

I don’t know what I am doing exactly, Em.  You might as well know that. It is easy to teach Lucy the colors and the alphabet song. I have no idea how to teach you when it is hilarious to mock me openly and when it is disrespectful to even sort of roll your eyes.  It is confusing.  You’re right.   But I am doing the best I can.  And so far it has been good enough.

When you read all this some day and you wonder why I spilled my guts (and maybe a little of yours no matter how hard I try to protect your privacy) I hope you just ask me.  Maybe I will be able to give you an answer by then.  Because today?  Today I can’t explain why.  Writing it down makes things make more sense.  And sharing it makes it all less lonely.  Maybe you will understand that.  Weird that in this time of my life when I am never, ever, ever alone – well, it is the loneliest damn time.

I am watching you play with your sister right now.  You just looked up at me and said “Are you crying because of those old pictures? Don’t cry, Mom. I’m still little!” And you shook your tiny little butt and you smiled.

Yes.  You are.  For today.  But you are bigger than you were yesterday and you don’t show signs of slowing down.

Mom

DSCN2031

What does the owl say?

Most of the time we cruise along on autopilot. Life happens all around us and we turn around from time to time and we can’t figure out how we got to where we are or remember a time when we were anywhere else.

Very rarely do we have the chance to see Life happening. But when we do – what do we do? Do we stop it from happening, draw attention to it? Take a picture?

Me? I loudly say “What did you just say?” as though I caught a kid cussing me out behind my back.

Owl tattoo

For Lucy’s first birthday I got an owl tattoo to commemorate her life thus far and so that when the dark circles under my eyes fade I won’t forget the year that I stayed awake all blessed night long for a year.  Shortly after I got her tattoo I started seeing owls everywhere. Consequently she has owl pajamas and we point out the owls we see in stores and magazines. Like any good parent of a toddler I say “What does an owl say?” and she says “Hooo hoo.”

And that’s the long version of how owls came to be called Hoo-hoos in our house.

I am not big on Baby Talk.  We use real words to talk about things.  How else do your kids learn to talk? But something about Hoo-hoos made me smile and I may very well have asked a certain someone if she wants to wear her Hoo-hoo pajamas a time or two.

Today Lucy said owl.  I don’t even know what she was talking about but I wheeled around and shouted “What did you say?” and she said it again, “Owl.”

It’s just one small thing.  But if I don’t write it down I will forget.  I won’t remember when that part of Life happened.  And before I turn around Emily will be driving a car and Lucy will be begging to wear lip gloss to school. And I won’t be able to explain how it happened.

Someone will be wearing her hoo-hoo pajamas tonight. And maybe tomorrow night.

Happily Divorced

“But you probably don’t want to hear about that…” you said.  You let your voice trail off the way you do when you aren’t sure if I am going to start talking. You were talking  about your girlfriend’s youngest daughter, her schoolwork.  If you were  just a casual friend the dismissal could have been interpreted to mean that every parent has conversations about homework with their teenager and it isn’t terribly interesting so why waste time talking about it.

But you aren’t a casual friend.  So, I have spent the last few days wondering what that single sentence meant.  Because that’s how we talk.  We laugh about old friends and trade “Did you hear that so and so got married?” and “Oh man, I had a sandwich with boursin mayonnaise on it and damn I forgot how much I love that stuff” and in between we say small things that we mean.  Things like “You sound happy” and “I’m glad you called.”

“But you probably don’t want to hear about that…”

Why?  Do you think that I am not interested in hearing about how you are settling in to a quiet life of doing home projects and arguing with kids about homework and being around at dinner time? I suppose it is fair to assume that it might sting a little.  Ten years ago I had imagined that you’d be putting down my hardwood floors, tucking our daughter in to bed and sitting on the deck with me wondering if we’d get one more warm weekend on the beach before fall quickly turned to winter.

I don’t hesitate to talk to you about the kids or my life.  It isn’t a secret that I am very, very happily married and I don’t hide that from you.  I talk about our daughter throwing a softball with MQD and I know that you’d imagined doing that someday.  I know that probably stings a little more than hardwood floors and a seat at the dinner table.  I don’t keep my life a secret because I know that in your heart of hearts you want us to be happy.  Even if it stings a little.

blurry jer

For almost a decade I have believed that you just never wanted the life that I wanted. It was easier to imagine that this life, the dinner seven days a week at 6 pm and a quiet life raising kids in the ‘burbs just wasn’t for you than to admit that maybe the only part of that life that didn’t work for you was the part that was me.

Maybe that was why you said I didn’t want to hear about your life now.

But you’re wrong.

A person can’t run wild and free in to their old age. Sooner or later they need to slow down.  For so many years I just imagined that you’d never slow down.  You’d just go at top speed until the end.  It is almost as if there is only so much life to be lived and you were planning on living all of yours before you ever hit 50.

I see you slowing down.  I see you happy.  You don’t have to hide it.  Because you know what doesn’t sting at all? You just might be around when Em graduates from high school.

I am glad you’re happy.  I am glad you’re slowing down.  I am glad I wasn’t wrong when I thought that you might settle down one day.  You know I love being right.  Turns out I just wasn’t right for you.  And I am glad about that, too.  Because in the end we’re both happy.

I guess if we couldn’t be happily married than happily divorced will work.   

Summertime

Summertime makes many of us think about being a kid.  The days lasts longer, afternoons stretch in to early evening and  we ride our bikes after dinner.  It’s easy to see why when the weather gets warm our minds drift towards our childhood.  Summertime epitomizes the innocence of youth, the freedom and the recklessness and the joy we miss in the day to day of adulthood.  I can almost bet it has been too long since you have gone down a hill on a bicycle with your hands in the air.  But that feeling of being just a little bit scared and a lot excited – that’s summertime.

As a child I never thought about being a kid.  In fact, summertime was quite the opposite.  Summertime meant I was getting older.  I was no longer in eighth grade, I was a “freshman.” I no longer swam 8 and under, I was a 9-10. Last year’s bicycle was too small, this year’s bikini is even smaller.  Summertime was a hot and sweaty reminder that I was growing up.

This summer began with a trip up to DC. My grandmother has recently moved from Florida to DC to be closer to my mother.  We were heading up to pick up her car as she has decided her driving days are better left in Florida.

I was in the back seat between the girls.  They were both asleep.  Mike was driving in silence.  I had an overwhelming feeling of being an adult.  I wasn’t the just the older sister anymore.  I was a real grown-up.  My two children, my sweet husband, going to visit my great-grandmother, I’m not sure what it was but I am certain the warm, night air played a part in evoking this feeling of passage.

The following morning I’d get a phone call that would solidify this feeling.  As I was riding in silence with my family my father was being admitted to a hospital after a heart attack. In the following 72 hours he would discover he needed bypass surgery and I would board a plane with my youngest to meet him at the hospital.

Little girls do not drive to the airport at 5:30 am bound for a hospital.  Young girls do not have conversations with their kids, apologizing for missing the last day of school party.  Mothers of only small children do not ever have the chance to hear their oldest daughter say “Mom, I would do the same thing if I were you, Dad and I will be fine here.  Go.” Young women do not  close their eyes in a hotel room near a hospital, begging for sleep that will never come, praying that their father will be awake in the morning.

I am growing up.  And so are my parents.  And their parents.  And so are my children.

This summer started like the summers of my youth.  I got a little bit older the minute the temperatures started rising and the swimming pool opened.  Unlike those summers from long ago – I don’t have my eyes on next summer already.  I’d like to stay right here for a bit, where the days are long and the nights are longer and my family is all around me.

I’d always imagined that the winds of change were cold and blustering. But I think change comes in with the wind of summer thunderstorms.  The warm sun on your shoulders and the welcomed shift in humidity makes you forget that the changes started with thunder and lightning.

Lucy did not suffer from the same sleeplessness.

Lucy did not suffer from the same sleeplessness.

Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts over the last week. My dad is a champ. His surgery went “as well as a bypass can go” according to his surgeon and he is already home. Here’s hoping the rest of the summer has fewer surprises.  

A very, very big thank you to MQD for holding down the fort at home.  You are such a good dad and an even more wonderful husband.  Your support makes it easier for me to be the mother and the wife and the daughter I want to be. xo  

Missing it

There is  hard stuff. The conversations that sneak in between the giggling in bed at night.

He rose up on his forearm and said “I’d have one more if you wanted.” He was watching her sleep, her teeny body taking up half of our king size bed.

My throat got itchy and my nose started tingling. I needed to not cry. I’ve thought this through not just with my heart and my hormones but with my head.

I don’t want to struggle. We are making it now. MQD and me and the girls. And I’m home. Where I know I belong. I don’t want to push Lucy to grow up faster. I want her to have what Emily had, her mom all to herself for years to come.

“I know.” And he kept watching her. “She’s just growing so fast.”

I took his hand in mine. “Another baby would grow up, too. And we can’t just keep having more.”

And he smiled. Looked at me. Took his eyes off of her for a moment. “Sure we could.”

This morning as he left for work I walked to the door and kissed him. Like I did when he would leave my apartment years ago. “Thank you for talking to me. Just because I don’t want more babies doesn’t mean I don’t cry several times a day over how fast this one is growing. There is absolutely nothing like loving a baby. I just want to be present for the one that we have.”

He kissed me back.

She is sleeping in my lap and I have my hand curled around the back of her head. Her bald little head. And I let the tears roll down my face. She has five long hairs right now. In just a couple of years she will get a hair cut and those sweet wispy baby hairs will be gone. Those hairs I soaked in tears, the hair she smeared with avocado.

I let myself cry for a few and then I stopped and took a breath. Emily always says “I wish Lucy could talk to us” or “I wish Lucy could walk” and I tell her “I don’t! I’m not wishing away our baby!! We won’t get it back!”

I think and talk a lot about how much it means to me to be present. To be here so I don’t miss it. But it’s not just wishing it away I need to be wary of. I can’t let myself get consumed with how fast they’re growing up. While I am weeping over the haircut my six month old will have in two years? I’m missing right now.

It’s so hard. To feel every second. In order to be fully present I like to hold on. But if I hold on too tight before I realize it I’m holding on to the past. And these damn kids, their present turns in to ancient history in seconds.

20120815-101126.jpg

When I Grow Up….

I have written before about my struggle figuring out “what I wanted to be when I grow up.”  Rereading that now I can see that what started out as thinking on my issues with being insecure and with my body turned out to be just as much about my being comfortable with who and what I am today as it is about anything else.

What prompted  my thinking about what I wanted to be when I grow up again? Ironically, another email from a friend.  Facebook is a delight in that it allows you to stay in touch with the people that you genuinely enjoyed from other parts of your life. From not only your past, but from social and intellectual arenas that you no longer really belong to, but that you may very well still hold dear.

This is a roundabout way to say that I live vicariously through the lives of my friends from my youth that have pursued their dreams as Actors and Artists.  For so many, many years that was what I wanted.  I wanted to be an Artist, specifically an Actor.  Yup, with a capital letter A.   Many of my close friends have asked me when I lost the bug.  Or when I stopped thinking about it… and I don’t really know when it happened.  I know it makes me get choked up now, like thinking about falling out of love with someone.  To me there is nothing more heartbreaking than the idea of falling out of love.  And I guess there was a moment somewhere along the way that I fell out of love with Acting.

Like most things that are hard for me to talk about I have a standard response to that question.  The “when did you stop wanting to do theatre” question.  “When I realized I loved wallpaper.”  Somewhere inside me I knew that I didn’t have the “it” that makes that life a real possibility.  I didn’t want it more than anything else.  I wanted wallpaper.

Wallpaper is not permanent.  But I’d guess that anyone that has ever sworn and sweat their way through an afternoon with a steamer and a trowel knows that removing wallpaper is about as pleasant as a divorce.  It sucks.  And the whole time you are thinking “why the fuck didn’t I just paint?”

I know now that my “wallpaper” was marriage.  And a Family.  (See how Family gets an uppercase letter, just like Artist.  That makes me smile, that I think it deserves one now.  I didn’t always.)

Recently I have been feeling more and more comfortable with who and what I am.  In part because I have been so fortunate in recent years to feel more joy than sorrow, certainly.  But also because I have come to peace with the fact that this Family that I enjoy, this delicious new husband and this incredible daughter, they take work.  And sacrifice.  And love.  And sweat.  And swearing, just like wallpaper.  And just like Art.   It’s nothing to be ashamed of, this goal.  This Family.

So, when an old friend, a friend from college who has no idea that I poke my nose in to her facebook pictures and look longingly at her insanely gorgeous headshots and laugh until I cry at her youtube videos, wrote me recently and said “you are such a beautiful mommy…..honestly, i sneak peeks at you and sweet emily all the time on fbook”  I cried.  Because this woman that I admire, that I secretly wanted to be when I grew up even when we were twenty-two  years old and drinking 40 ounce beers while we water-colored our Costume Design final exams… she said she sneak peeks at me.  And what she sees is a beautiful mommy.

And it made me cry.  Because I smiled and thought “god damn right, I am.”  And I was proud.  That, my friends, is progress.

Thank you, Nina.  You just get more and more fabulous.