Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Teenagers, Driving, and Jello

Not so long ago I received a text message from a friend. It said that she had seen a sign that made her think of me. The sign said “Raising teenagers is like trying to nail jello to a wall.” I responded that it sounded about right.

My oldest now has her learners permit. I love her. I'm afraid she may kill us. But I love her. Here's the thing. I am not a patient person. I do not have a knack for teaching someone to drive a moving vehicle. Truth be told I don't even really enjoy driving myself. I drive out of necessity at this point not for the joy of driving. Also I believe it is entirely possible that it stresses her out to try to learn from us. It's all “don't put us in the grass” and “not too far over! Do you want us to get hit by oncoming traffic?” It is virtually impossible for any of us to relax. I think driver's ed instructors should be given some sort of medal of valor or something. They could be knighted if we still did things of that sort.

I do want her to learn to drive. I have thought this over and I realize all the perks to having another driver in the house. She can run to town and grab things at the store for us. She can pick up a pizza. She can take her sibling to and from school. The perks to her driving are endless. The possibilities are endless.

On the other hand like I said the possibilities are endless. She could have a wreck. You know I had a wreck not long after I got my license. What if she were to have a wreck? What if she got hurt? I couldn't stand it. Plus it requires me to let go. I'm not really a fan of letting go. I'm more of a choke hold kind of person. I latch on and hold on for dear life.

I am a teenagers worst nightmare. I ask questions. I look at them and see the little girls they once were and not the young ladies that they are. The time it goes so quickly I'm afraid. Yesterday they were riding around in Barbie jeeps and today one is learning to drive an actual car. One day they are learning to make chocolate milk and the next day they are learning chemical equations in chemistry. I ask what they have for lunch and who they sat by at lunch. I suppose I'm supposed to ask which boy they think has the cutest smile. I'm supposed to be getting in shape and getting crazy strong so I can scare prospective dates away. I prefer for them to only like boys who they are unlikely to ever meet. So far they only like boys who are in the movies. Boys at school have little to offer in their eyes. I am quite certain they are correct in their assumptions of them as of course I was once a teenage girl and I know about teenage boys.

When my oldest turned ten I cried. I cried in the middle of the newspaper office while trying to put in her happy ad. Double digits is the beginning of the end. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. Teenagers. Trying to take care of them, teach them, and let them go. I think it is about as easy as nailing jello to a wall. It's hard on the parents and on them. It's hard being in that space between child and adult. It's even harder seeing them as growing up and not as children. I think they will always be my children. I just have to get to the place where they can become adults and not grown children. As adults we drive. I think I will start pricing fruit baskets. The driver's ed instructor is going to deserve it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween, Orange and Other Nonsense

If you were to ask me what holiday I like least the answer would always be Halloween. Yes I like candy but I can buy my own candy at the store and avoid passing it out to strangers. I just do not understand why it's acceptable to dress up like the living dead and walk through the streets of town scaring small children and well … me. Plus what is with the knocking on strangers doors and begging for food. They aren't starving and you try to give them an apple and they will likely toilet paper your house. The decorations are just as bad. I spend half my year trying to get spider's webs off of my porch as they seem to think they belong there. Why on earth would I go buy artificial ones to decorate my house. Eww!

When I was a little girl I wanted to go trick or treating like all of the other little kids. My mother would take me to the houses she knew. In kindergarten I was invited to a little boy's Halloween party. As I liked this little boy very much my mother took me to the party. We had no sooner started up the walk to the door when someone in a scary costume jumped out at us. It scared me to death. To this day I remember nothing else about the party. I don't even remember if I stayed for it or went home scared. After that my mother would take me out trick or treating but it soon lost it's appeal and I stopped going very early.

Another problem is the colors. Orange and black? Really? I own one orange shirt that I break out for October. It doesn't have a pumpkin or any other foolishness on it. I do not wear clothing with pumpkins or Christmas trees or Easter bunnies on them because I am over the age of eight. Orange is for pumpkins. Put it with black and I may have a physical reaction. I have to give myself pep talks to buy anything orange for anyone in my family. Why anyone would want to look like a pumpkin is beyond me. Plus as Elle Woods would tell you “whoever said that orange is the new pink is seriously disturbed.”

I am the mother of three. I have sucked it up and taken them trick or treating since they were babies. Mostly because they like it and they usually share the chocolate with me. We only go to our neighbor's houses and then we go to our church for the community outreach party they have every year. It feels a little less wrong when we go to the church. I do not allow any scary costumes and one year my husband and I dressed up with the girls. It really was because I had such a great idea for our costumes that it seemed a waste not to do it. I was pregnant with our son at the time and due the next month actually. When I was pregnant for our middle child I had been in a wedding. So I wore my bridesmaids costume with my great grandmothers tiara. I went as the pregnant cheerleader and my husband wore his Purdue basketball jersey and went as the ball player that got me pregnant. OK so it's a little mean. But it was funny right? A couple of 30 year old's dressing up like teenagers? No? What do you want for me I was eight months pregnant and 30 years old, I was getting testy. We did have a good time and we got our own candy that year because some of the houses got it and thought it was funny.

As we approach 40 and that baby I was pregnant for is going on nine and the only one trick or treating, I can't help but think maybe there are some good parts to the holiday after all. I mean every year our town has a pumpkin walk and the church has a chicken and noodle dinner. On the pumpkin walk you can get homemade kettle corn. If for no other reason the food is pretty good. Plus I think I will miss the excitement on my son's face when he gets a regular sized candy bar instead of a fun sized one. So maybe it's not my favorite but at least it's one time of year and I'm not really required to decorate. The kids put up decorations and take them down the day after. After all, if I won't wear orange I don't want it to be a focal point in my house either.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"The Look" of Love

I was raised by my  mother.  I learned very early on that there was only so much that the woman could take.  I was an only child too so it made getting away with anything very difficult because there was no one but the dog to blame for things.  My mother had a look.  You could really monitor how far you could go by monitoring her facial expressions.  But when she reached "the look" you had better run and run fast because it was about to hit the fan.  I feared that look.  Back in the day parents disciplined their children.  I discipline my children but not quite to the extreme that I would get.  I got chased around the house with a fly swatter.  I lost the lock to my bedroom door by probably 10 years of age.  Because when I went too far I'd run to my room and lock the door, which made them mad because they would have to find the key to get to me to beat my hind end.  And when you have a big mouth and no sensor like me a beating is pretty much a given. 

Fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be I was given not one but two girls with big ole mouths and no sensor.  Just like me.  While I have tried to perfect the look.  I don't think I have it down like my mother did.  My children do not quake in fear, like I did.  I was always just sure that I would be a good mother if I could just give "the look" and not have to resort to punishment.  I  am not that fortunate.  Plus while I tell my children that if I had talked to my mother like they talk to me, I would have been on the floor so fast I wouldn't even know how I got there.  I would just be looking for my rear.  Because it would be off of my body or it would hurt so bad I'd be sure that I had lost a pound or two.  My kids lose electronics.  My kids have had spankings but when they were much younger and not to the extent that I did.  (Plus two out of three are my size and I'm old and can't wrestle them as well anymore.)  I yell but they tune it out.  Electronics hit them where they live.  You take all of those away and they don't know how to function.

My grandmother says I'm just like her.  When she was in the service she was a medic and worked with what she calls the crazies.  They loved her there because she told it like it was.  This is pretty much how I am too.  I will tell you what I think.  Now if I do and I hurt your feelings I will probably feel bad about it but I won't lose sleep over it.  Mostly because I'm usually pretty sure I'm right.  Which is why I used to get into trouble, hence the fly swatter beatings or the hand if they couldn't find the swatter.  My mother whether she would admit it or not was much like me.  She was never wrong, she was always right.  Two right people does not a happy pair make when they are on opposing sides.  Which most times we were.

While I do not miss the fighting, I miss my mother so much it hurts most of the time.  My mother was wrong of course most of the time, because I was right.  But my mother loved me enough to fight with me.  The woman just refused to listen to reason.  I told her "Mother, you have to quit smoking.  I learned in school that that will kill you."  I was right of course because it did.  Sometimes it's not always good to be right.

My oldest is just like me even though I say she must get it from her father.  If you put bell bottoms on her and feathered her hair and put a comb in her back pocket?  She would be me reincarnated.  It's scary how much alike she and I are.  Well how close she is to me when I was a kid anyway.  I appreciate that I'm still alive so much more now.  I also appreciate how she managed to seemingly come out of the teenage years unscathed so much more now.  I think you fight with the kid that's most like you.  I would give her both kidneys if she needed them.  I'd push her out of the way of oncoming traffic.  I'd do just about anything for this girl.  But we would get along so much more if she learned that I am always right.  I said " Go to youth group with your friend I think you'll like it.  AND I think it would be good for you."  She went to youth group had a great time and gives me a hard time every week and says she doesn't want to go.  Then she goes because I'm mama and what I say goes.  She has a great time and gets mad because I was right.  Yeah.  Go figure.  I wonder if when I'm gone if she will miss fighting with me.

I often wonder what my relationship with my mother would have been like if we didn't fight like we did.  I always wanted her to be my friend.  Maybe she might have been if she were still here.  Maybe not.  Mostly I am glad she was my mom.  It's like what I tell my girls.  God didn't put me here to be your friend.  You already have some of those.  He wanted me to be your mom.  That's my job.  When I am done raising you, then we will be friends.  Until that time, my mission is to love you and guide you to what He has planned for you.  You belong to Him. 

What I do know is that my mother loved me.  Maybe not like I wanted her to, but the best way she knew how.  I think that's all any of us can do really.  Just love each other the best way we know how.  My mother loved me enough to fight with me.  I think that's better than indifference.  Indifference implies a lack of caring.  My mother cared enough to fight to get her point across.  She did. Sometimes being right is not the most important thing.  Sometimes being wrong happens.   Sometimes you fight WITH the ones you love.  Sometimes you fight FOR the ones you love.  Either way you love them the best way you know how.