Gone and Gone

Remember the movie, “Cocoon” with Wilford Brimley and Jessica Tandy where they think they discover the fountain of youth in a swimming pool?

These days I feel like I can relate.

I was flipping through a college pamphlet that came in the mail for my son. Inside, young people surrounded by brick buildings and trees turning yellow in autumn were walking happily to class. They looked ready for what life awaits them around the corner.

As I made my way through the campus of my future school (less than three weeks, but who’s counting?!) I came across a dining room filled with what looked like high school cheerleading squads. I remember being a cheerleader in high school and attending USC and Pepperdine University with my squads and thinking how much fun it was to stay the week in dorms. And I watched as these young cheerleaders cried in the hallway on their phones…and boy do I remember THOSE days too. One word: Drama.

Yesterday I went into Walgreens for a few things after getting my haircut. The salesperson checking me out asked, gingerly, if I had any discounts. “Huh?” I responded. “You know, like AARP.” She says.

Oh.

“No.”

Her response: “Well, um, do you qualify for AARP because if you do I can still give you a discount.”

Fuck the discount.

I ask her, “What age do you have to be to get an AARP card?”

“Fifty-Five, I think.” Is her reply.

Fuck. Fuck. And Shit.

I kindly tell her I am many, more than a few several (SEVERAL!!) years away from a stupid AARP card.

A few days ago I am on PinCrackTrest and I stumble onto site after site of mommy ideas. Fun things to do with toddlers. How to get your kids to bed at a decent hour. Cute classroom ideas for kindergarten. Fun kids lunch ideas. Mommy support groups. Images of young mommy’s walking with their strollers.

And I realized I am no longer that mom to really young kids anymore.

I’ve got two teenagers and one twenty year old.

Dammit.

Why does it feel sometimes that youth is just – gone in a split second? Wasn’t I just that cheerleader trying to make my squad get along despite 16 year-old drama? Wasn’t I just that mom of a kindergartener, a toddler, and a newborn struggling with clever ideas for potty training and creating ant logs out of raisins and celery?

I feel sometimes like I am stuck in the middle somewhere. Not a young adult heading to college anymore and not a young mother of young children anymore.

And I think back to that fountain of youth and you bet your sweet ass I would jump right in and splash until I could be young again…

Low Moments II – The Police Saga

The same thing happened to me two years in a row on exactly the same day. September 19. Day before my birthday.

My firstborn was a screamer. (He is 19 and he kinda still can be.) He was loud and rambunctious and to say he was full of energy is like saying the moon comes out at night.

After putting both boys to bed a couple of hours earlier, I went upstairs to check on them. It had been an exhausting day and I just wanted to marvel at their sweet little faces as they slept.

That’s when I noticed the flashing lights outside our home from the upstairs window. Then the pounding on the door.

Two police officers stood at our door and demanded they come in because there had been a complaint by a neighbor about neglect.

Neglect? Are you kidding me?

They were not kidding.

They walked upstairs to my firstborn while he slept and inspected his body with a flashlight. It was horrifying. Then, they went to the baby’s room and inspected him in his crib. It was equally as horrifying.

Satisfied that they didn’t have any signs of neglect, we went downstairs to chat.

I tried to explain what happened that day.

My oldest had a tantrum. This was not new. He often had tantrums. And I had read in a parenting magazine about keeping the inside of your house as a “scream and tantrum free” zone and if the child wants to partake in that kind of unsavory behavior they must do so outside.

So, I sent my son outside.

Now, in hindsight putting in the backyard might have been a better idea.

But I watched him through the living room window and he just sat on the grass in the front yard. But he was technically unattended. We also lived on a quiet street in the middle of a subdivision and nowhere near downtown or a busy road. Regardless, a neighbor saw him and didn’t see me and apparently called the cops.

The next time happened when I was napping during the day. And again on September 19.

I woke up to two things happening at once. The pounding on the door and the baby crying. I stood, in a still-sleepy haze, for a half second in the hallway wondering who I should go to first, the front door or the baby. When I looked out the peephole, I had my answer. The police were behind my door.

They walked in, stepping over the piles of laundry I had in the hallway because in Oceanside we didn’t have a laundry room – only the washer and dryer in a hallway closet thing. They said they received a call from a neighbor (my neighbors were just dandy in that neighborhood) complaining that the baby had been crying for a long time.

I explained that I had been asleep, tired from, well, motherhood.

They needed to see the baby.

Okie dokie.

Thankfully I was in the habit of making my bed every day because the baby was in the bassinet in my bedroom. One police officer stood at the door and the other walked with me to the bassinet. I immediately picked up the baby, who promptly stopped crying.

At that moment I felt as if I had been given the Worst Mom on the Planet award.

The police walked over and looked at the baby, checking arms and legs. All was well. They were very nice and I explained (again) that I had been tired and fell asleep and didn’t hear him crying.

These two incidents made me a nervous, panicked, depressed wreck. It made me doubt my abilities as a mother. And it caused my own mother to worry about me and my children on the heels of the Susan Smith’s of the world that had been in the headlines at the time.

I lived in a stressful, depressing place for many years back then. When your entire job as a mother brings police to the door with flashlights inspecting your kid’s legs and arms, you begin to doubt the job you thought would be the best one ever – especially when you get calls from your mother, who seemed to have the same doubts.

I remember years later when we were trying to potty train our middle son and he refused to use the toilet to do his business and we would have to bathe him each and every time he pooed. His bottom was as red as a tomato and so we used a rash cream following the bath. It was a nightmare. Despite the uncomfortable pain he must have been in that stubborn child of mine still didn’t officially potty train until he was almost four.

As my husband was putting rash cream on his bottom the sounds from the bathroom sounded like this, “Daddy, stop! Daddy, that hurts!” I kept telling them both to shut up or this will be something else I will have to explain to the police. I went around slamming windows every time the kid pooed in his pants (which was several times a day, mind you, but that is a totally different story).

To this day, on September 19 every year I think about those bleak days back in San Diego and the heartbreak that happened to my little world. It changed me. I doubted myself. I felt always watched and judged. I struggled with depression.

When I think back to mothering two small boys, the events that happened were low moments in my life, for sure. And something I doubt I will ever completely shake.

I am thankful that these days, I have a house full of teenagers who are all potty-trained and no longer throw temper tantrums.

What I Would Do

I have a friend who is moving from Idaho to Alabama.

However, she still has a job here and not one there so she is driving with her family (husband, grown daughter, college-age son, and a tween daughter) to Alabama to settle into their new place and then will be back in time to go back to work at the end of August.

And she will live upstairs in her grandparents large home in the same neighborhood where she just sold. And work here until next summer. While her family is in the south.

Another friend asked her, “What do you think you will look forward to the most being suddenly alone without having to do the normal mom stuff?”

That question had me thinking of what I would look most forward to if I were in her shoes.

1. The Daily Grind. Taking kids to school, making lunches, picking kids up, shuttling kids to and from this and that. Homework battles. Overseeing projects. Someone needs a haircut while another needs a ride over here and another needs new shoes.

All of that stuff.

2. Laundry. Dear Gawd, I think I could go much longer without doing laundry and when I did do it I probably can have it all done with about two loads.

3. FOOD. Oh how different I would eat if it were just little ole me. I would stir-fry some sprouted lentils over brown rice with a side salad and call it dinner. I would eat way more fish. I would eat way less meat. I would eat way more vegetables – or even better, just make a meal of interesting vegetables. And I wouldn’t have to hear about how someone hates tomatoes while another hates mushrooms.

4. Peace and Quiet. I can’t really complain because my kids are older and they are hardly noisy or troublesome. But. It would be incredible to just sit down with a book and a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning and not have to get kids up and cleaning and doing chores and prepping breakfast, etc. In the evenings I would sit outside with a glass of wine, reading material, and maybe my simple little dinner.

5. Cleaning. If I cleaned, it would just, oh I don’t know, STAY clean.

6. Crafts/Hobbies. Or, better: just doing whatever I want to do without having to stop and cook dinner. If I want to scrapbook, great. If I want to spend all morning in the garden without someone needing me for something…amazing. If I want to read a book instead of watching TV, no one is going to stop me. If I want to piddle around with my mosaic projects, I can get involved without having to stop for whatever reason.

What would be on your list?

Doing It All

We all get caught up from time to time thinking we can do it all and then some.

Until we realize we can’t.

Oh sure, we can try and do it all. But something along the way something has to give. Something is not done as well as you would have hoped. You forget things. You lose things. You feel as though you are losing your mind because you are constantly going at full speed, all the time, knowing that if you keep all those balls juggling in the air you are bound to never lose your footing.

Until those balls come crashing down.

Maybe not all at once. Maybe one ball at a time.

I recently had a conversation with a mother of a friend. A grown friend married and with children. Small children. The friend worked full time, took care of four small children, planted a garden, enrolled the children in daycare camps, soccer, baseball, football, gymnastics, karate and who knows what else. Plus she has one still in diapers. (Oh dear gawd, hold me.)

She goes and goes and goes.

The mother of this woman said that her daughter can simply do it all. And she was proud of her daughter. I will admit, the admiration from a mother to a daughter I found endearing.

And I nodded and smiled and agreed.

Who am I to discount what this woman’s grown daughter can or cannot do?

But when I drove home and pondered it a bit I realized she can’t possibly do it all well.

We only have so many hours in the day and she is no different.

Maybe she doesn’t cook home-cooked meals from scratch. Maybe her house isn’t very clean. Maybe the baby has diaper rash. Maybe the garden is going to die from lack of attention or water. Maybe she will forget someone’s birthday gift at home and only realize it once she has driven across town.

And then again, maybe not.

But I have a firm belief, not in wanting and watching another mom take a fall from the pedestal of Do-It-All-ers. But because I just know that as women, mom, wives, whatever – we set ourselves up to fail sometimes. And maybe it isn’t a big deal that the almost four-year old is still in diapers because who has time to potty train? Or that the tomato plants are shriveling up and dying? Or that she ran into the store to buy a rotisserie chicken and then was halfway home when she realized she needed cupcakes for her daughter’s class the next day?

We can juggle and juggle all we want and convince ourselves (and our mother) that we can manage five hundred things at once but are we really? Can we possibly do all those things well without feeling frazzled, frustrated, and exhausted?

And more importantly, why do we feel the need to do so much?