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…

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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.

Drinking and Driving

I recently had a conversation with a friend who said her son would stay the night somewhere instead of driving home drunk and that it is a bone of contention with her and her husband. They both don’t like the idea of the boy staying out all night.

The boy is underage, after all.

However.

The discussion made me think of some of my less-than-stellar moments as a young adult.

Less.

Than.

Stellar.

But one night stands out.

My friend (who lived in Glendale, one town over) and I were drinking at her house. We were going to head over to my house (for whatever reason, I don’t remember) which involved driving down a curvy road to get to the freeway entrance and then it was one freeway exit away before you were practically at my front door. It took maybe 10 minutes to get down the “hill”/”canyon” – whatever it was – and then another few minutes on the freeway.

I can still remember the feeling of traveling on that freeway entrance. Drunk. I remember sitting close to the steering wheel, leaning forward, so I could – I don’t know – see better? See less blurred images?

Somehow, miraculously, I made it home that night without incident.

But I told my friend this story and how I felt her son was actually being WAY more responsible to just stay put and sleep off the liquor. Oh sure, he shouldn’t technically be drinking but that is another topic. The fact is, he is and was drinking and instead of getting behind the wheel and seeing blurred vision he stayed where he was until he sobered up.

On Children and Teens, Oh My!

All I can say about parenting teenagers is: Oy. And maybe: It’s rough. And quite possibly: Hold On!

My favorite part about parenting teenagers (and by favorite I mean not really) is how much more they know than me. I mean, really, they know SO MUCH. Way more than this forty-something. How did I ever doubt that a nineteen year old would know so much about the world around him? How confident and self-assured. How worldly. How mature.

Surely I am not the only parent with a teenager who knows so much more than they do?

I have what I think is a good relationship with my teens but they are all so different and requires such different parenting for each.

Take the 19 year-old. He is the one who clearly knows it all. Folks, there isn’t anything this boy doesn’t already know and to prove the point he will roll his eyes, get irritated, and say something like, “Mommmm, I KNOWWWW.” Ah, brings me back to those bratty I-Am-Always-Going-To-Be-Eight-Years-Old days.

Great fun.

No, really.

At nineteen my work is really done. I mean, if he doesn’t have the basics by now, it is way too late. Hopefully the kid knows right from wrong, being responsible and respectful, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and how to be polite and hardworking. We have now moved onto the bigger, adult stuff like paying your bills, how to obtain car insurance, saving money, interviewing for a job, writing a resume, and what it actually costs to live on your own without your parents dropping money into your account on a regular basis. And believe me, he still doesn’t want to hear what his mother has to say because, oops, I forgot, he knows it all already.

Okie dokie.

Then there is the middle child. The one who is almost seventeen. My go-with-the-flow child who is smart and sweet and funny. He is what I call Low Maintenance after the Firstborn (who was and still is very High Maintenance). Sure, I have to remind him to brush his teeth and shower and change his underwear but I figure I have another year or so before he, too, knows it all. So far my biggest challenge with this child is he is one stubborn boy. Always was. Still is.

And then there is the littlest teen. The newly inducted Teen who just left Tweendom a mere three months ago. The difference here is she is a girl. So we have make-up issues, and hair issues, and clothes issues, and shoes issues, and friend issues, and homework issues, and body image issues, and acne issues, and I-Want-My-Room-Repainted-And-I-Need-New-Shoes-And-Can-I-Go-To-The-Mall-With-My-Friend issues. And then there are the teachers who clearly caused her to fail seventh grade world civilizations by not reminding her to study or turn in her homework. Uh huh. And the friends who all have social media and smart phones when she doesn’t. Yep. And the drama with bratty girls and mean girls and mean, bratty drama queen girls. Hold me. We have emotions that are up and down like a roller coaster and hormones that feel like a constant earthquake and we have sensitivities if one looks ever so slightly off center.

Most days we flow. And there is peace (thank god). And everyone is doing what they are doing and the household is harmonious.

Other days we have: a sick nineteen year old that somehow blamed me for being sick or not believing him or not doing enough to make him better (who the hell knows? He did go to the doctor twice in one week and I bought all his medication, but okay, yeah, blame me) and because he is sick and miserable then by golly everyone in the household must a) endure his miserable and nasty attitude; b) be to blame because he has to point the finger somewhere, after all; c) listen to him complain and moan and groan (super fun, trust me). Meanwhile, he just got a brand new job in a hotel as a baker but because he has been sick he hasn’t been able to start and his boss already called once saying, um, you better yet? Oh the stress of it all. Then the middle child who is taking an AP history class which requires more work but somehow the video games are more important and how many times do I really need to remind my almost-straight-A student that he has to do his homework and that we are only a few days into the school year and already I am bloody exhausted by it all. Oh, and have you thrown your dirty clothes down the laundry shoot? And you did brush your teeth before picture day, right? And then the littlest teen who is crying at dinner because she wants to volunteer (gleaned the information, by the way, by a Drama Queen I can’t stand) at an animal shelter which is all the way downtown and because she is only 13 she has to be accompanied by an adult which means me or her father has to suddenly “volunteer” too – and we told her, um, don’t get your hopes up.

Let me say that parenting is nothing that I read about in all those parenting books and magazines with cute pictures of cute kids all playing blocks on the floor in matching, adorable outfits. And when I thought it would get easier when they got older (in some cases, that part is true, they can certainly use the bathroom alone, take their own showers without me washing their hair, and they basically dress themselves and feed themselves too. Whew) but while those things definitely got easier a hundred and twenty-five MORE things just got harder.