Monday, November 16, 2015

The Morphing Of A Mom

As much as I adore every little morsel of my sweet children, some remote area of my brain has resisted the movement into motherhood.  It digs its heels in when it comes to even the most sensible transitions that a mom should make, such as carrying a mom-purse, branching out from the junior's section in stores, or making a meal of half-eaten granola bars discovered in the crevices of a car seat (just kidding-I totally do that!).  When it came time to buy a new car a year and a half ago, my children commissioned for a minivan, spelling out the practicality of it.  I heard them loud and clear.  And then I bought a Jeep.

 “A compromise car,” my friend, Melissa offered.

“Sure.  A compromise car.”  At the time I bought it they couldn’t even open the doors on their own let alone climb in without my hoisting them up.  No my friends, this was no compromise car, but rather a selfish clinging to the freedom of my youth.  I did think to pile extra  blankets in the car when we took the top off, but would still catch glimpses of them through the rear view mirror looking less than pleased as the loud wind whipped their hair around while we drove, not fully sharing in their mother's joy.   Good news for the kids though because apparently this part of my brain is shrinking (right there along with all the other parts) which I realized when I threw myself into full on mom mode last week.

We were Target-ing later than usual and with the days getting shorter, the sky was already darkening as we exited the store.  I was tired and stretched thin, having worked all day and skipped dinner to make it to the store before bedtime.  Plus, shopping with three kids-I’m not alone here or Target wouldn’t be starting to serve wine in their stores.   As we transitioned from the familiar fluorescent blare of my most favorite store into the evening shade, the weight of the day was heavy on my tired shoulders.   I turned toward the parking lot and was met by a group of teenage boys coming into Target who walked toward us, jeering each other and spewing filth from their mouths.   Three little heads turned to stare at them in fascinated awe, not understanding, but innocently absorbing their words.   

“Boys!” I snapped, my voice icy.  Surprised, they stopped in their tracks, looked at me, then glanced quickly at my children.  They paused, sheepish and for a single moment I saw the look of understanding.   Then, they became teenagers again.

“Sorry.”  They continued walking and the filthy words continued to spew from their mouths. 

Now, I know this is America.  I know all about the Freedom of Speech thing.  But, this was Target.  Which was basically like them being in my living room. 

Hey!”  I called sharply.   They turned back to me.   I could vaguely see other shoppers pausing, although my vision was razored in on the potty-mouths heading into the store, the rest of the world being a bit of a blur. 

Enough.  There are kids around.  Watch your language.”  For the record, I’ve never before scolded people I don’t know and I am far from one to pass judgement on people using colorful language.  This admonishment came out of me without my control. 

The boys claimed Tourette’s and I decidedly refrained from lecturing them about the seriousness of language disorders as my adrenaline had slowed and I was beginning to realize what I was doing.  Embarrassment set in, but also a motherly feeling of wanting to and hug these boys (kind of like, air-hug them really...from a comfortable distance...because, teenagers) and fill them in on the wisdom that I’ve gained since my teenager-hood.  I remember with regret being a disrespectful, smart a--  teenager myself back in the day.  I wanted to let them know this about me… 

Boys, I used to be just like you, (Yeah right, lady).  You don’t know it now, but it gets better.  Someday you won’t need this armor of defensiveness to be comfortable in your own skin but will see the importance of using your words only for building up and giving grace to those who hear. 

I didn’t do anything of the sort, of course.  Besides, they were already in the store and on their way to steal electronics. 

We continued on to our car.
“That’s cool.”  Aiden said, riding along in the buggy of the cart and trying out some tough guy language of his own.  Ella’s eye shifted nervously to me, clearly wondering if I would turn my wrath to them next.

“Aiden.  That was not cool!”  She watched me to make sure I understood that they did not share the same opinion on this.   Her eyes looked for my reaction as she spoke,   “Those boys were being naughty!”

“No.  I mean Mom.  Mom’s cool.”  And together, they began to create a (totally uncool) chant about their mom yelling at naughty boys.  I smiled to myself at the irony.  Just you wait, little ones.  You haven’t seen anything yet. 
Sometimes we eat Panera- in the parking lot of Target- with the top off- and I wonder if life could get any sweeter. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Bike Rides and Diesel Fumes

Something so very sad has happened.  Aiden and Ella.  Their teeth.  The cute little ones all fell out and in grew these oversized gangly ones, too big for their dainty little mouths.  I shared my remorse with Ella.

“You guys used to be so little and say the cutest things…and now you’ve got these big teeth and back-talk me.”

“Yeah,” she replied, flipping her hair, “now I’m more into texting...and...Rock and Roll”.

I should mention she is six.  So, I suppose I have a few more years of them saying cute things.  But, the dreaded years of teenager-hood seem looming ahead of us.  With this sudden awareness of childhood slipping out of my sight and the corn as tall as it would be getting for the summer, I decided it would be the perfect afternoon for a long bike ride with my soon to be teenagers.   It actually wasn’t the perfect afternoon.  It was the middle of a heat wave with a humidity level high enough to grow gills (Ha! Joke credit…the internet!).  But, once I get an idea in my head, sometimes it’s hard to reason it out (I’m currently in the midst of similar battles with reason regarding decisions of whether or not to get eyelash extensions and if I should I buy a goat herd).  Chad tried,

"You can’t go for a bike ride today.  That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard.  It’s, like, a hundred degrees outside.”  He spoke each word slowly and deliberately- although this didn’t matter.  I’d lost him at the word can’t.  Chad doesn’t know that about me yet, I suppose.

The kids, on the other hand, were elated at the idea of spending some quality exercise time in the hot sun with their mom.  We climbed onto our bikes and set out for my brother’s house-he’d invited us over for dinner that evening.  As one who isn’t great with numbers and measurements and such,  I reasoned that this was probably a six mile bike ride, but if we made good time we could be there in about three miles.  Chad would drive our little sweet P and meet us at my brother’s later.   Off we went.  You know how these things go.  Yada, yada, yada…the kids were whiny and tired…yada, yada…more hills that I remembered in Illinois…yada, yada…how are there still this many mosquitos in 2015?   Eventually, we coasted down some hills and the warm air snuck into our helmets and my children were all giggles again.  A couple of miles into our ride, I recognized the sound of Chad’s truck coming down the road and he coasted up beside us.

“Hey!” he smiled, leaning across the seat.  “Want to throw your bikes back here and ride the rest of the way together?”

Aiden immediately declined.  He’d recently (yesterday) decided to try out for the show, American Ninja Warrior.  He had only 15 years until he’d be old enough to do so, and he was quite determined to train every day of his life until then.

“Ella, go ahead in the truck and we’ll meet you there.”  I offered.

“No thanks!  I’m riding with you, Mom!”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.  I’m just getting warmed up.” She held tight to her Hello Kitty handle bars, cheeks flushed and eyes determined.    

Chad shrugged and drove on ahead.  Not a minute later, we saw in the distance a car heading towards us. We pulled our bikes to the side of the road to let it pass, complaining about all of the traffic this time of day.   The car slowed, then stopped, and a familiar face climbed out.  Mrs. S, the elementary school secretary.

“Mrs. S!” the kids shrieked, their bikes clattering to the ground as they ran into the road to hug her.  As you can imagine by that sort of reaction, Mrs. S is more than just a school secretary, as I suppose most good secretaries are.  I'd guess she’s about as much of ‘a school secretary’ as Bill Gates is ‘a computer programmer’.  Her morning hugs were often the highlight of my daughter's school day.  Although we had just come to know Mrs. S over this past school year, it felt as though we’d known her much longer than that.  Probably because we’d become well acquainted with her sisters and they all look so very similar to each other, as sisters often do.   In addition to being neighborly and kind, these sisters-for reasons unbeknownst to me-seem to have been designated as some sort of guardian angels for my children, popping up unexpectedly just when they are needed.  Although it saddens me a little bit that despite my best intentions my children would need guardian angels, one doesn’t scorn their children’s guardian angels.  One of the sisters and her husband had been my landlords when I first transitioned into country life and had spent the past three years responding to my calls to rectify emergencies that I was not equipped to handle, such as a doorknob handle coming off in my hand or a water heater that needed switched on when I didn’t exactly know what a water heater was or where its switch might be.   And another one of the sisters and her husband towed my car out of the snow that horrible winter before last.  A lot.  They did the towing of my car so many times that now I look back in embarrassment and wonder-Why in the world did I keep trying to drive in the snow?  But, they were kind enough to never ask me such an obvious question.  And now, there is the sister that keeps watch over my children while they are away from me at school.  I think there are more of these sisters, but I am patient to wait until the next chapter of my parenting misadventures to find out.

After a school year of loaning my children matching mittens and doling out band aids, I was so very happy for Mrs. S to see me having this nice, bonding bike ride with my children.   She hugged them tightly and smiled,

“Wow!  A bike ride!  Where are you off to?”

I explained that we were heading to my brother’s house for dinner.

“Well, I hope you brought lots of water.  It is really hot out!”

Oh, um.  Water? “Yes, well, we had a really big glass before we left home.”  I so hoped this was true as I try never to tell a lie and come to think of it, it was really hot out.

“Can I give you guys a ride?”

“I want to ride with Mrs. S!” both children raced to call out, as if they’d forgotten all about our fun and relaxing family  bike ride going on here.

“Oh, no. We are fine.  Thanks though.” I glared at my little traitors and climbed back on my bike as an example.

“Mom,   I want to ride with Mrs. S.”  Ella persisted.  Not five minutes ago, she had adamantly refused a ride with Chad who was actually heading in that direction.

“No, Ella.  You’re fine.”

“Oh, I can give Ella a ride.  She looks a little tired there.”    Mrs. S looked upon Ella with worry in her face.  I followed her gaze and saw that, having taken her helmet off, strands of wet hair clung to her now unnaturally fuchsia tinted face.  I felt an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.

“Uhhhh…no thanks.” I stuck stubbornly to my initial decision, not wanting to disrupt Mrs. S’s travel plans or acknowledge my mistake in judgment,  “Chad will probably be by in a few minutes to pick us up.  But, thanks.”

“Oh good!  Do you want to call him?”

“Uh, sure.  I think we’ll just get over that next hill, then I’ll call him.”

“Do you have a phone with you?”  Of all the…

“Um, no.  But I’m really sure Chad will be right by and I’ll have him give the kids a ride.“

“Well, I have my phone.  Why don’t you use it to call him?”

“Okay, uhm.  Well, this is kind of embarrassing, but I don’t actually know his phone number.  It’s just programmed into my phone.”  Things were not looking good for my mom of the moment feeling and I was beginning to wonder if a DCFS hotline call was going to be in order.

In the end,  I wavered and agreed to let Mrs. S drive E-who had miraculously perked once she’d climbed into the back seat of Mrs. S’s sports car- to my brother’s house.  [I later found out that my brother really helped paint the picture of my children’s upbringing when they arrived and he shouted at Mrs. S and Ella through the front door, “Don’t come in, I don’t have any clothes on!”  Thanks for that, Richard.]  As I helped Ella off of her bike and into Mrs. S’s car, I whispered through my teeth,

“Ella.  Chad just drove by.  If you were so tired, why didn’t you ride with him when he offered??”

“I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t finish the bike ride. I wanted him to think I was tough.”  Well, now.  I gave my silly little prideful mini-me  a hug and sent her off, saying a little prayer that she wasn’t having a heat stroke.   Mrs. S said she’d tell Chad to drive out to check on Aiden-- obviously having realized that Chad had no intention of ‘swinging by’ as I’d led her to believe.  I didn’t mean for that to be a lie either.  Who knows?  I mean, he could drive by.  He’s his own person and apt to driving around the countryside.  Maybe he just would.  One never knows these things.

Aiden and I continued on our ride and had wonderful conversations about barns and soybeans and Ninja Warriors.  The air wasn’t quite so hot now, and the mosquitos weren’t quite so bad, so long as we kept moving.   Another ten minutes passed and I saw Chad’s truck coming towards us.   He slowed and looked at us, puzzled.

“Where’s Ella?”

“What do you mean?  Didn’t you see her at Richard’s?”

“I’ve just been driving around the countryside” he said. (See!) “No one was home at your brother’s.”  Well, someone was home, just preparing his birthday dinner in his birthday suit apparently.

“Can I ride with Chad?” Aiden asked.

They loaded Aiden’s bike.  And as I was dog-gone bound and determined to finish this blasted bike ride, Chad drove his truck slowly along beside me the last mile so we could talk through the engine noise and fumes while I pedaled, feeling stubborn and foolish and oh-so happy inside.

Because every story should end with a baby this cute.