Monday, April 18, 2011

Teenagers and the Secret Society of their Survivors

I was discussing in church recently that I may need a mentor mom. So far I have no volunteers. I believe I've figured out why. You see I'm the mother of teenagers. Two in fact, both girls, nineteen months a part. Yes that was on purpose. Don't laugh I'm an only child I didn't know better. You see my theory went a little something like this. I wasn't exactly sure how this having kids thing was going to go down, having no experience or anything to draw from. So the way I figured it I should have two and have them close together. My thinking being that if I did it that way they would be close. Built in best friends for life. They would never long for someone to play with. They would never be lonely. I was lonely for quite a bit of my childhood, watching shows like The Brady Bunch and Growing Pains and wondering how much better my life would be with siblings to go through the trauma of growing up with. Like I said I didn't know any better.

This is what I have discovered. It's not too terribly difficult to get a mentor mom if you are the mom of a baby or a toddler. Those my friends are nothing compared to the teenage years. Diapers and the lack of a vocabulary are your friends at this point. Embrace them! As soon as they hit about 9 it all starts going down hill from there and the vocabulary just increases in ways you don't want to think about.

I think perhaps that women who have lived through the teenage years with girls, especially more than one, have formed a secret society of sorts. They are all sitting around in their little clubs watching the rest of us flail around and enjoying the show. They won't get involved because they have already lived through their fair share of drama. It's either that or they are mostly institutionalized and are preparing my chair and little white coat for me. A friend of mine suggests that perhaps they are sitting around sipping their drinks and waiting for the next survivor to arrive. I am not a drinker so I said what will I do? Learn to drink? She said, well I didn't say they are drinking alcoholic drinks. You could have an orange mint julep. I asked her what that is. Apparently that is what Reese Whitherspoon served at her wedding. It's some kind of a southern drink. I persisted in asking her what exactly is was. To which her reply was “ I don't know I don't live there!” My friend has two daughters. Neither of which are yet into the teenage stage. While I love her dearly, if she had teenagers herself, she'd understand that perhaps I may need to learn to drink as whatever an orange mint julep is? May not be enough to get me through this stage of life. Although I am willing to give it a try at this point. The orange mint julep that is not the alcohol, we'll hold that thought till they start driving.

There was a time when my daughters wanted to share a room. I refused to let them and told them that they would thank me later. At this point they practically need written permission to enter the other girl's room. Can you imagine what it would be like if they did in fact have to share a room? Imagine if you will, duct tape running down the center of the room and intense fighting if one piece of a shoelace crossed over into the others domain. There could be anarchy. There would of course have to be squares of duct tape on the floor to symbolize neutral territory. No, I think it was the best decision all around for them to have their own rooms.

Don't get me wrong there are times when they get along. They are far a few between most of the time. They can be sitting on the same sofa watching a show together just fine, then one moves or looks at the other wrong and then it's “ON LIKE DONKEY KONG.” Hide the breakables. Call in the National Guard. SOMEONE BLEW A BUBBLE IN THE OTHERS PRESENCE! This cannot be tolerated. We must go to war! I have tried entering into peace talks with them. I don't know what to do. I have told them that I cannot possibly live forever. They are going to have to learn to get along. If their father and I survive the teenage years we fully intend to move to Florida without leaving a forwarding address until they figure out how to get along.

I can only imagine what our family gatherings will look like if they don't figure this out. Will we have to have separate family gatherings because even their husbands and children won't like each other? Am I required to buy the Bob Evans Dinner twice for Thanksgiving? Clean the house twice? Put a line of duct tape down the middle of the house to have them all over at the same time but quarantine them to separate parts of the house with only the bathrooms being neutral? It's too much!

This is why I need a mentor mom. My own mother is now gone but I don't think she could have helped me with this one. She only had me. She didn't have to deal with any squabbling kids. She could have perhaps thought back to when she was growing up with all of her brothers and sisters. But I tend to think maybe that's why she had just the one. She remembered all too well. I do have a mother-in-law that raised daughters. She is quite busy though. Also I'm kind of thinking that maybe she doesn't want me to know if it gets better. Sometimes maybe it doesn't. I think for the most part my sister-in-laws get along. But maybe the secret is in how long that took to happen. She may think that if she doesn't tell me then if it happens sooner for my girls I'll be pleasantly surprised. If later then she didn't give me false hope.

In the mean time, I guess I'm in this thing alone. If you want to apply to be my mentor mom feel free to do so. I would greatly appreciate it. If not I think I understand. Just get my chair ready at the table and have my orange mint julep ready. I'll be anxious to figure out what that tastes like. Until that day when I enter into the secret society of survivors of teenagers. I guess I will make do with ice cream to drown my sorrows. So I sure hope the secret society comes with a free gym membership.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The "Old" Mom, A glimpse into our family

It occurred to me when my youngest child was in kindergarten that I am now the “old” mom. I admit that the spacing of my children is part of what gives me this title. My oldest is in high school, my middle in junior high, and finally my baby is in second grade. As I looked around at all these young mothers awaiting to go on a field trip with what could only be their oldest child I was struck by the finality of it all. These mothers are just getting started on this journey. While I am still in the middle of mine, my days of waking up with babies and dealing with diapers every day and toting a small arsenal of supplies around just for a trip to the store to keep baby happy are over.

I remember being a young mother. When we left the hospital with our first child, I sat in the back seat of the car with the baby and as my husband pulled away from the curb, I said “wow, they really will give just anyone a baby won’t they?” I was FAR from prepared. Sure I’d read the books, I had taken the prenatal classes, which were basically useless as I had an emergency c-section the first time around and planned c-sections with each subsequent pregnancy.

My oldest child I refer to lovingly as the guinea pig. She was the first and as I hadn’t a clue as to what I was doing I made the most mistakes with her. Fortunately she has become a lovely young lady, no thanks to me, and I believe the amount of therapy she will need after enduring me singing show tunes to her and parking her in front of Barney as a little tyke will be minimal at best. We got pregnant very quickly with her. I gained 60 pounds with her. I was a whale looking for an ocean with her. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was a staple in our home at that time. And I figured since I was going to be pregnant I may as well look the part. I looked like I had swallowed at least two basketballs is what I looked like. But nine months later we were blessed with a beautiful healthy little girl. Exactly on her due date and not a moment before. To this day she does things in her own time, whether you are running late or not. She as well as my other children bring me more joy than I thought imaginable. Proving that what I was seeking in this life wasn’t status but family.

As my oldest is in high school and my middle in junior high, there are some topics that you are not allowed to discuss in front of them and any amount of PDA completely grosses them out. Being as we figure that our insurance will cover any amount of therapy they will need, my husband and I make it a point to hug each other and kiss each other and tell each other we love one another in front of them. Any little peck on the lips or cheek will result in “OH GROSS! Get a room would you?” To which our reply is always “Uh Hello? We have one, we are in it. Every room in the house is ours which one do you want us to go to?” We do not do this to gross them out. That’s a perk of course, but we do it because we feel it’s important for them to see that mom and dad are good. We are in a good place and we love each other. We may tease each other or frustrate each other (like when he puts his dirty laundry just outside the hamper or I get into that whole lack of self esteem thing that I do) but love is the basis of all of it and that’s what brings us together as a family. And again there is that whole thing where it grosses them out and hopefully they will remember that and hold off on their own PDA when boys enter the picture.

My Son is eight. The poor girls got the scared, please don’t cry, why don’t you listen, what can I do, I’m messing this up mommy. My son got the relaxed I’m old, you’ll live if you fall down, sure spill something the floor needs cleaned anyway, oh you want to each cheerios from the floor the ten second rule applies here go ahead, stick the binky in the soda to clean it off and give it back mommy. He is in turn a pretty relaxed kid. He goes with the flow. He has sat through dance lessons, dance recitals, soft ball games, band and orchestra concerts, and who knows what else. He doesn’t really complain you just hand him a game boy and he plays his game and goes with it. He plays basketball, soccer, baseball, and likes to draw. He is also the peace maker of the family. He tells me if the girls are fighting (usually they are, we are still waiting for the best friendship to take hold). To which unless someone is in pain because they get into a knockdown drag out fight I don’t move. I figure if no one is bleeding or on fire they need to learn to work it out themselves. Unless of course they mess with my baby (who of course is now eight not the two year old I still keep him as in my mind and who may have instigated it anyway, because he is his father’s son) then I come unglued. He is very smart and kind and of course handsome as like I said he is his father’s son. But he’s my baby. My last go around. He’s eight.

On our kids birthdays we put in a happy ad in the newspaper. When my oldest turned ten, I cried. I stood in the newspaper office and cried because my baby was in double digits. When my youngest, the baby of my family turns ten, I may need a valium sandwich to get through it. Plus there is the whole thing with I’ll be forty the same year and my oldest will be driving by then so I may already be on medication, so it could be ok. Either way they are growing up entirely too fast. I’m pretty sure that I’m not finished growing up how can they be catching up so fast? Yesterday I was in high school, today I have a child in high school and while when I was fifteen I was sure I was an adult, I tell my fifteen year old that she is still a kid and to embrace it. The way I figure it, you have your entire life to be an adult. There is no going back, you get this one chance to be a kid and you should hold onto it as long as you can, at least till college. At which time you need to start figuring some things out. While I love my babies, my forty year old kids are not living here. I’m old, not crazy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Getting on the Boat

One of the movies I like to watch as of late is The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. In the movie they go to Alaska to see his parents and they need to get on a boat to get to the house. The conversation goes a bit like this: Margaret “ I’m not getting on that boat.” Andrew “ That’s fine I’ll see you in a couple days” Margaret “You know I can’t swim.” Andrew “Hence the boat!” This cracks me up every time, then it gets me to thinking. She is afraid of getting on the boat because she can’t swim. He can’t understand why, because she won’t be swimming, she’ll be on the boat. How often do we miss the boat or refuse to get on the boat because of fear?

I have been having several “duh” moments lately. Moments where I feel like God is just pointing things out to me and some moments where I feel like “Oooh I get it now. That’s what I’m supposed to get from this.” My goodness how many boats have left the dock without me on it. How many boats have I watched leave the dock and waved with the “I’m not ready, I can’t do it. I’m not good enough” thinking. I think I’ve missed every boat that came to the dock or maybe I never even went to the dock. Fear has been so prevalent in my life and I think I’m starting to understand why. I’m starting to “get it.”

I was doing my bible study last week and I was having some trouble getting what I was supposed to be getting from it. For me, it helps if I can talk it out. So I called a friend and asked her about it. As we spoke, the light bulb went off. I believe there may have been a heavenly choir that began to sing in celebration and I finally started to get it. When you are a child, and we all know this, we tend to learn what we live. If you are told something long enough you eventually take it as a fact and accept it. To this end I try every single day to tell each of my children how special and wonderful they are. I tell them they are beautiful and smart and kind and such a gift to my life. Because those are the things I want them to believe about themselves. Those are not the things I grew up hearing. My mother married a man, not my father, who told me daily that I was ugly and would never amount to anything and no one would ever want to marry me. Well, I have been happily married to my hottie hubby for almost sixteen years. I take no credit for that it’s a total God thing. I would also likely tell you that I believe fully that he could have done better. There goes that fabulous self esteem again. When I look in the mirror I see flaws. When I think of doing something I usually give up because I’m certain I’m bound to fail. Mostly because that’s what I was told would happen. I have always believed the lies and never believed the truth because I never felt like I deserved it. After all I’m ugly and I’m never going to amount to anything, remember?

Here’s what I’m figuring out. I married an incredible man. God brought just the right man to be my partner in this life. And this wonderful man must see something beautiful and worthy in me or he wouldn’t have married me. I usually fail at things because I quit or give up before I have any chance to fail or succeed, because I am equally afraid of both scenarios. Is that ridiculous? I’m not sure. I suppose even, I’m more afraid of succeeding than I am of failure. How crazy is that? I don’t think it’s really all that crazy if you think about it. If I try something and fail, it’s really not going to change my life. I’m pretty comfortable with my life as it is. I’m comfortable in my comfort zone and I like it there. If I were to attempt something and succeed it could greatly change my life and I would be moved from my comfort zone where I’m so comfortable. I suppose I never really knew if it was worth the risk. For two years I have wanted to turn my writing into a book. Book deals mean traveling. Book signings, meeting, a lot of things I am sure that would take me out of my comfort zone. As I am an optimist. Which is the weird part of my lack of self esteem. First I think I would fail miserably but that would be ok because that wouldn’t really change my life. Second oh my goodness what if I were to succeed then what? What if all your dreams could come true? What if I got pulled from my comfort zone? I am a very nervous flyer.

I am a walking contradiction. I don’t want to try something because I will probably fall on my face. I don’t want to try something because of the off chance I succeed. There you have it. I am a loser. I have let the fear of both wrap chains around me, stick my feet in concrete, and plant me in with roots that are strangling me. I am the only one who has done this to me. I have the most supportive family ever. For Christmas one year I received a book of all the publishers and agents in the country and a publishing for dummies book. It was exciting and it scared the day lights out of me. It became a little too real and strange. In growing up I never had anyone believe in me that way.

I think the message I’m suppose to be getting here is get on the boat. Stop letting the fear of drowning keep you from getting on the boat. DUH! Or as we say in our family d-u-h, d-u-h, d-u-h. Because of course it means more if you spell it out. I don’t know where this boat will take me. I suppose it’s a bit like learning to swim, you either sink or you swim. But I suppose it’s like Andrew says “Hence the boat.” I suppose if Jesus can calm the seas and walk on water, He can steer the course of any boat that comes my way and says get in. And maybe I will fall on my face, but how will I know if I don’t get on the boat? It’s like that joke about the man stranded on the island and the first boat comes and he turns it down and says “no God will save me.” Two more boats come and he says the same thing. He cries out to God and says “Why won’t you save me?” and God says “I sent you three boats what do you want?” Get on the boat. Go for the ride and see where it takes you. I think that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Six Word Story

Last night I was visiting one of my favorite author's blog. She was having a contest to win an autographed copy of her new book that is coming out in May. All you had to do was come up with a six word story and put it in the comments section of that post. I was thinking "Hey! How cool, I can totally do that!" Turns out I totally couldn't. Everything I thought of had eight words. It was driving me crazy! So eventually this is what I used: "Six words really? I need eight!" Of course, I was highly amused and thought it was much better than what I later read: "I want to read your book". I keep checking the web site to see who won. So far it hasn't been posted. There were some funny ones. While I was a little dry last night, today I've been getting all sorts of ideas.

A list of fabulous six word stories:

Girl writes blog. Few people read.

Girl loses weight. Weight comes back.

Milk left on counter. Cat full.

Girl lacking confidence, now Breaking Free.

Poop on floor, cat for sale.

Girl starts singing, cats now hiding.

Teenage girls pmsing, midol much needed.

Girl needing exercise, beware wii boxing.

Girl learning to cook, chaos ensues.

Oregano and Rosemary, what's the difference?

Recipe, celery seed, what is it?

Girl growing older, lies about age.

So as you can see, I could do this all day. A day too late of course, but this could go on for awhile. I imagine six word stories will haunt my dreams now. I don't know who she will pick. I am not likely to win the contest. But I do know one thing for certain, I can't wait to read the new book. If one thing is for sure, it will be a laugh riot. After all you can expect great things from a Purdue grad. I should know I married one.