Magazined

I subscribe to four magazines, and I’m not sure how that happened. Three months worth of Home and Garden sit on the table, gathering dust, while Women’s Health, InStyle, and Popular Science are only a month behind – hey, I like to feel a little healthy, smart, and at least appear like a fashionista.

Fine, I fail on almost all counts.

At least a decade ago I subscribed to three family oriented magazines, and rarely read any of them through.  I chalked it up to the demands of single-parenting, and stopped subscribing after a couple of years because I read more when I went to doctor’s appointments than I ever did at home – at least feeling productive with all that waiting time.

The parenting magazines only helped me feel inadequate, and mostly envious of all the energy those interviewed parents had to make those incredible birthday cakes from scratch, plan a beautiful, even if simple, party, and have happy party guests go home with clever little gift bags (hey, it was my kid’s birthday – why should the other kids go home with gifts?).

I would have been a hit on ‘cake-fail’ sites, and the parenting magazine was the first to go, even though, yes, I did read them at my son’s doctor appointments.  At least I wasn’t paying for the guilt and inadequacy anymore.

The daycare I worked at a few years before I became a mother gave me good skills I actually practiced.  I think I only yelled ‘shut-up!’ once as a parent.  ‘Use your inside voice’ was my go-to phrase.

One skill I learned after my son was well past the incessant questioning age, and was never addressed in those parenting ‘zines – and I can save you months of pain and suffering by revealing – is this simple phrase: ‘why do you think that is?’.

Scenario:

We have to go inside now.

Why?

Because it’s nearly time for lunch.

Why?

Because food keeps us all happier, and healthier.

Why?

Because food breaks down into vitamins and nutrients that give us energy.

Why?

‘Why do you think that is?’

The above example would have gone on for close to ten minutes with my son, whom I was patient and tolerant with, and I would try to keep answering until he was out of questions – especially because I was not allowed to ask questions when I was growing up.  One time the ‘whys’ ended tearfully when I said ‘because I’m stupid, that’s why’! (My tears, not my sons.)

My father’s standard answer to asking ‘why’ was: ‘because y is a crooked letter’ – when he was in a good mood…  I had no idea what his answer meant, especially as I wasn’t clever enough to realize he was talking about the letter rather than the word, but it did signal no more questions, as getting beat was likely as not to happen next.

The parenting magazines often showed fabulous ‘easy’ home-made costumes for Halloween, and the best (and only, really) home-made costume for my son was when he was twelve or thirteen, and very into the Final Fantasy video game, he wanted to be a black mage for Halloween.

black mage
Final Fantasy Black Mage

I am not a seamstress.  I have sewed hems, badly, and patches and repaired rips, equally badly, but my son, really, really, wanted this home. made.  I guess it would give him street cred, or whatever the video-gamer equivalent is, and so help me god, I heard ‘OK’ come out of my mouth.

OK?!  What the hell was I thinking?  That sweet boy face – that kid who was already starting to pull away from me and acting like I was the very epitome of ineptitude  – was asking me to make him a costume!?

Well, when I put it that way, we can all see why I said OK.

Mind you, the internet was still fairly new in 2002, and all I could afford was dial-up internet anyway, and I wasn’t very internet savvy.  Hell, the internet wasn’t very internet savvy then.

I saw what the black mage looked like from a poster my son had, and I went to work: measuring, and figuring out how to make a wizard’s hat, shirt, and cloak – something that would make him proud, and maybe be nicer to me? (Ha!)

I found the right material for the cape – on sale!, and buttons for the shirt that were fantastic, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be making the shirt and cloak, but I nearly went insane (fine, insane-er) when I was making the hat.

Black Mage Final Fantasy
Black Mage Final Fantasy

I made it out of heavy felt, and found a pattern for a similar hat, but it needed tweaking, so I expanded on the pattern the best I could, and while I began the project in late September, it was a few days before Halloween when I was ready to give up and just let the ‘I hate my idiot Mom’ campaign begin in earnest.  But persevere I did, and the hat got made, and it came out beautiful.

austen black mage a10_31_04

Best of all, his friends thought he looked amazing.

Ironically, I never thought to write-up and submit that experience for an article because I found the experience abysmal, and didn’t think any parents out there would relate. Now, of course, I know that at least a few others out there might have sighed in relief knowing that the ‘good-parent’ bar was set just a bit too high in those magazines…

These days I can read magazines without feeling (as) inadequate, but there’s no reason to re-subscribe if all they’re doing is collecting dust.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

 

Dear Son, Sorry

I was reading lists of things to teach your children before it’s too late on my news feed.

To quote former Texas Governor, Rick Perry: ‘oops’.

I didn’t teach you about money very well.  You need to pay your rent, and your bills, and your student loan, and get food, for godssake!  Oh, for all that, you need to budget.  Don’t know what that is?  I didn’t either, yet somehow, we both lived.  Yeah, I have about $8,000 in credit debt, but they’re the ones who gave me the cards!  Also, my debt is down from $15,000, and if I helped you with math, you’ll know I’ve paid down nearly half!

Interest.

They charge you to keep that pretend money  – often a lot! – especially if your credit rating sucks, which mine did.  Because I managed to pay back nearly half, I have better credit now – will they ever learn?

Food.

You really shouldn’t eat all the crap I fed you until I found out that it was crap I was feeding you.  McDonald’s didn’t get rich off us, but we loved their french fries, and sadly, the proof is still in our arteries.  I’m sorry!

Sugar isn’t your friend, fat isn’t either – unless it’s good fat, and then – not too much, OK?

Are you exercising?  Yes, I made you go out and play – holy crap – I managed to do something right – but are you keeping your muscles and bones strong and safe?

I was a helicopter parent, or maybe a light experimental craft, because I hovered, but not to the extent I’ve read about some parents – sheesh!  I can at least feel good about that while I’m wringing my hands over what I failed to teach you.

Teachable moments.  I missed so many.  Again, sorry.  I was winging it.  I did have positive reinforcement skills – telling you to use an inside voice, use your walking feet, and gave you choices – even if it was a choice between two shitty options.

Also, I didn’t swear much when I was raising you, and that was a huge accomplishment, believe me.  I fucking swear all the fucking time now, and before I had you.  I was trying to teach you, and myself, that swearing isn’t necessary, it’s just fun.

I wouldn’t, however, swear when talking to your boss, or anybody who might ever possibly have power over you.

People suck, and life isn’t fair.  Did I tell you that enough?  There are many good people too, they’re just harder to spot, and are suffering from being dumped on by all the jerks.  Be nice to them.

Remember this mis-attributed Mark Twain quote:

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

There are so many things I forgot to teach you, but thankfully, you’re smarter than me, so you’ll figure it all out before you have children – if you have children – which I recommend and I don’t recommend.

If you know that I love you, that you conquered my selfishness, that you made me a better person, that I always wish the best for you – wish for stamina to withstand all the challenges you’ll face, keeping your humor, your hope, and your humanity intact, then I’ll believe I’ve done a good enough job.

Love,

Mom

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Evolution Of A Boy

I found this letter/ode I had written to my son in a bunch of old papers I was going through to recycle today.  I wrote it when he was twelve, and pulling further and further away from me – right on schedule!  But just because biology dictates a thing so, doesn’t mean it wasn’t terrible for me…

                                 Evolution Of A Boy

When you were born I held you close, rocked you, walked you back and forth while you screamed with colic – or was it protest at being out in this cold, drafty world from the temperature controlled, fluid womb?

You stayed in a crib until you were two and a half and began crying to me of your needs in the night, or in the morning, coaxing me with “Up, Mommy? Up, Mommy – peas.  Peas, Mommy?”  How could I ignore that?  You asked so politely, so pleadingly.

As a toddler, and ever since you were born, I read to you day and night.  It became the bedtime routine: books and a back rub until you fell asleep.  Often you would play with my ear – a throw back from your nursing days – a comfort habit that never bothered me.  Whoever held you until you were four or five would have their ear manipulated by you.

Nighttime was our time.  It was sometimes the only peace in the day.  I was really present most of the time for you then, and we both knew it wouldn’t be a struggle of wills; it was a time any outside observer wouldn’t question my parenting skills.

That nighttime routine when you wanted me to lay down with you after reading and rubbing your back until you fell asleep – or nearly – lasted until you were eight or nine.  I would sing Mockingbird – replacing Papa with Mama, of course – and Lily Of The Valley, three or four times each, and sometimes you would sing along.  Then we would always play the ‘I love you more than’ game.  “More than chocolate cream pie with ice cream and marshmallows, and a ton of whipped cream” – or whatever we would dream up.  A phrase we had read: “I love you to the moon and back”, began a long tradition of sometimes jokingly arguing over who loved the other more – “I love you the most – eternity, infinity!”

The mornings nearly always had me picking you up and carrying you into the kitchen for breakfast until you were about seven years old.  It seemed to help you wake up just that little bit more.

Sometimes you would jump up into my arms for a hug and you did that until you got too heavy for me to grab you up into a hug like that.

Now you’re twelve.  You are on that precipice between knowing you are not a dependent child to knowing you are not quite grown-up either.  It can be confusing, frustrating, and scary – but exciting too.

You are, at times and often, so much more than you think you are.  You have so much to offer this suffering world.  She needs boys and men who care, as you do.  Societies may seem indifferent or hostile to boys and men who care, but that is because societies are not grown-up either.  They don’t know how to accept the whole boy or the whole man – but they are learning.  Just as I am learning to let go – but I have built a path from my heart to yours – and there is a path from your heart to mine too – so that we’ll always know there is a home for us, especially when you find the need, or just to be reassured that it’s there.

I love you my dear child.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Six and Four

That’s how old the boys are that I provide child care for occasionally, and spent my day with at a lake yesterday.  I used to watch them regularly but changed jobs last year.  The older boy was just two months old when I started the job.

My son was in full-blown adolescence then so it was perfect work for me to watch a child who needed and wanted me as my child was pulling away.  The difference between my son as a baby and the baby I was caring for was so stark.  I didn’t know a child could be so easy to care for.  My son’s pediatrician told me that my son was a ‘high need’ baby as I sat in his office back then, crying from lack of sleep and feeling so inadequate as a parent, and indeed, I was nursing him every two hours, which continued for seven months before he stopped nursing so voraciously, and he was colicky as well.  My mother came to help me during that time, while my son’s father was two states away at his job, coming back on weekends.  My son’s father and I weren’t happy as it was, and having a child only put more stress on our relationship.  We broke up and I moved out when our son turned a year old.

When my friend’s second boy was born, I began watching him at two weeks old, and he was an easy baby as well.  I loved caring for those boys.  It was so good for me because I wasn’t watching a whole group of children as I did when I worked at a daycare center, and I didn’t have twenty-four hour responsibility for them.

I still had parenting duties with my son, even though it wasn’t very joyful anymore, but I had enough positive experiences that dealing with my son’s adolescent angst and unpredictability was more manageable than it might have been.

I would give my son hugs and tell him that I loved him every day, as he stood there, arms by his side, at least allowing me to hug him briefly.  I would say that although he was rapidly changing, I was not, so it was going to take me far longer to adjust.  It was so painful for me to go from living with a boy who wanted to be with me, who called out to me several times a day that he loved me, who enjoyed spending time with me, to the stranger who I now occupied the same physical space with, but could hardly be further from emotionally.  Oh, and did I mention I was living with treatment-resistant depression, and I was a single parent?

I might have screwed up far more than I did with my son if it hadn’t been for my childcare job.  As the boys got older, they were somewhat in awe of my son, especially the older boy I watched.  When my son was there the older boy wanted to follow him around and it was sometimes a challenge to help my son have private space when the boys were with me.  I would usually see if my son could spend time with one of his friends during school vacations or days when I had the boys and my son was around.

I took those boys on many adventures during our days together, but our favorite pastime was finding cows.  I’d drive them to farms and we’d visit with cows and read books about cows, and while other animals were included, cows ruled.

I don’t think I could love those kids anymore if they were my own, and I’m so grateful when I get to watch them now.  The last few times I spent with them, the older boy has been questioning me about why they don’t see me that much.  I explained that I had another job, and they have school now, and days that I could see them their schedule and mine didn’t work that often.  He looked at me and said, “Well, we just don’t see you enough.”

So, I can’t get adult relationships right in my life, but I have a six year-old who knows how to work a room!  Yesterday before I left he hugged me and said “I just don’t want to let go.”  I said, “I know, me either!”  The younger boy and I have a happy, loving, and super fun connection too, but the older boy knows how to articulate what he’s feeling, and isn’t shy about telling me.

I have to figure out how to spend more time with them because they’re going to be seven and five in a few months, and the opportunities to spend significant time with them grows slimmer with each year.  While I so enjoy working with children, it can also be heart-wrenching.

I’ll be bringing my son back to college in a week, and he’ll be back home for Thanksgiving and his winter vacation, but he won’t be back next summer.  We know we love one another, and our bond is solid, but he’s a man now – no matter how much I wished to keep him a boy – and I feel the grief about losing him rising up all over again.  I don’t need to be consoled through platitudes or pity – not that anyone is trying to – but I do need a new purpose and I don’t know where to go or what to do yet.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.