Home alone 

In my almost eleven years as a mom, I’ve left my boys a few times. The first time was obviously the most traumatic since they were only about 14 months old. I had a job interview across the country and I REALLY needed a job that would pay more money and allow me to be more self-sufficient. At that point in time, I’d had a nanny for a few months who was very dedicated and sweet and who had two young girls of her own. She offered to have the boys stay overnight with her for the weekend while I flew to New York from California. I did it and still don’t know how I managed to do so without completely losing my mind.

In retrospect, I probably did lose my mind a bit. On the flight to New York, a red-eye, I ended up passing out somewhat inexplicably and needing an ambulance to take me to the hospital upon arrival. Maybe it was stress, combined with altitude, combined with a couple of beers and cigarettes while waiting to depart, or maybe it was hormones or God knows what else, but it wasn’t pretty. When the doctors advised that I check myself in and have some tests run, I refused. I tried to explain that I had an interview the following day and would be flying back to San Diego after that interview and back to my babies, thank you very much. I promised to get checked out by a doctor when I was back in California and checked myself out of the hospital. My mom and my sister drove to Long Island to pick me up since that is where the ambulance mistook me thinking I was staying there and not where my sister lived–2 hours away.

It was a whirlwind 48 hours and I was never so glad to be home and hold and snuggle those babies. They were alive and cooing and nothing awful or tragic had befallen them and in the end I got the job. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it; leaving my kids with people who were practically strangers to me. But then, all working parents know what it is like to have to leave their kids with a nanny or at daycare with people they have vetted and believe to be good, but one never really knows. Most of the times these are the risks we take because we really have no other choice.

The next couple of times I left my boys on a weekend with my sister or my mom so that I could spend a night with my BFF in a hotel in the city and down at the Jersey shore to celebrate my birthday. These were relatively short jaunts to nearby places and I felt exhilarated rather than stressed. I knew they were fine and I was never more than an hour or so away. The boys barely knew I was gone.

I did a long weekend away when one of my best friends got married in California. It was difficult, but I was so focused on the wedding that I didn’t stress too much. And then there was the New Year’s long weekend when they were four and I went a couple of hours away with my boyfriend and left the boys with my mom. This went relatively well except for me waking up in the middle of the night interrogating him about where the boys were and thinking that someone had taken them out from under my nose while I was sleeping. It was similar to when I’d wake up when they were babies and tear the sheets off my bed having dreamed they were suffocating in the blankets or worried that I’d fallen asleep with them in my arms.

There have been work trips that lasted a couple of nights and one trip to CA to see my friend and her new baby, a couple of nights in Boston to see a speaker I love, and a sanity trip to Cape Cod last summer–all relatively short trips away, all with the boys staying with family and basically maintaining their schedule and life and normalcy.

And they’ve also had nights away at slumber parties and friends’ houses. Happily leaving me behind with a “seeyalaterbye” and going off to do boy things that boys do. This past winter they had the opportunity to do a weekend campout at the nearby (read: 5 minutes) Boy Scout camp in cabins with some of the boys and Scout dads I had grown to know and trust over the past few years. I’ve been OK. I’ve taken the baby steps to let them go out on their own a little bit. I have. Really.

But when they expressed a desire to go on a week-long adventure to sleep away Boy Scout camp, I was a little uncertain. OK. More than a little. Pretty freaked out actually. Doesn’t matter that I had left them before for short periods of time with people they spent lots of time with anyway. This would be the first time THEY were leaving ME. For a week!

After much consideration, I decided to let them go. After all, what is parenthood but a series of these moments where we decide to let our children go.

As the time got closer, I realized they were not going to have a problem being away from me for a week. It was all me. I was the one freaking out. I was the one who was going to need to cope with their absence. I was the one being left home alone.

So far, the experience has been…interesting. I’ve definitely stressed over whether they were OK and whether they were homesick or if they were having a good time. I worry that they are safe and if they can handle any uncomfortable situation which might arise. But the one side-effect I wasn’t ready for was how this independence would make ME feel. Suddenly, they are one step closer to taking the car keys and leaving me for the night. They are one step closer to making their own decisions about how to spend their time whether or not I approve. They are one step closer to leaving me behind to go to college, and forge their own way, and have their own life.

And all this is scary enough without it also shining a light on the fact that over these eleven years, I don’t necessarily know myself anymore when it doesn’t relate to them. I’m mom. Who will I be when they are gone? I’m always mom, and will always be a mom, but it’s been a long time since I had the freedom to think and act independently from them. Soon, they will really be gone and I will be left on my own. What will I do then? Who will I be? What will I spend my time doing?

These past few days have reminded me a little of who I was before the boys came along and who I might be when they leave me behind for good. I took a day off of work to go to the beach and recharge. What will it be like to have all my vacation days and personal days to spend as I choose, not on caring for them when they aren’t in school or taking them to he doctor or dentist or being there when they are sick?

Tonight I thought I might get my nails done or watch a movie, but instead I dropped off their pillows and some cards with a Scout dad who is going up to camp tomorrow and ended up having a glass of wine with some other moms and realizing I’m not alone in my longing to have my boys where I can see them, in arms reach, where I know they are well and safe and enjoying their childhood. It was good to share the letting-go experience with others who are feeling it too.

But I know now my time is coming. Time that I have so desperately wanted and time that I so desperately wish I could keep at bay for a few more years of holding my little boys in my arms and snuggling them and knowing that all was right with the world. Before I know it, I will be alone and I will need to prepared to live MY life again and not just the life of me, mom, but me, ME. How will I do? What will I do?

Some things that have already occurred to me include:

  • Walking around the house naked is so liberating. I will definitely be doing more of that when they are gone.
  • Not needing to make sure that anyone but me has what they need for the day saves SO much time. I can definitely sleep later in the future.
  • I can choose to take off work, wake up at the crack of dawn, spend the day at the beach, and still make it home to get a good night’s sleep without worrying about snacks, riptide, under-tow, snacks, not enough sunscreen, three chairs, snacks, a cooler, an umbrella, snacks, a sheet, sand toys, boogie boards, snacks, bathroom breaks or stopping three times on the parkway for any number of reasons. So efficient!
  • If someone asks if I want to stay and have a drink, I can say: Sure!
  • The gym is open early! I can go before work and never think twice. I might actually be in shape again.
  • I can watch whatever I want on TV and it doesn’t matter how loud. Even if they are cursing. Or having sex. Or blowing shit up. I don’t even have to sneak a peek to see if my boys have overheard what I’ve been watching.

I’m sure there will be more by the end of the week.

What I do need to relearn is how to prioritize those things that are important to me. And how to identify those same things… I’m not even sure anymore what my priorities are beyond them. I guess what I have learned is that in letting my boys become who they are, I need to remember how to become who I am.

Because sooner than I am ready, it’s going to be all me.

Advertisements

Pride and prejudice

One of my darling boys was honored as one of the Students of the Month in the fourth grade classes. They put a big emphasis on character, as well as academics, and I think it is a good thing to start ingraining in these young students’ minds; that what they do, and how they do it, counts for just as much as regurgitating answers on a test.

Ironically, this same child challenges me every step of the way at home. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very loving. He’s very smart. He can be incredibly kind and affectionate. He’s also so stubborn I forget that he’s a child sometimes. And argumentative. And relentless. I guess, in some ways it isn’t so ironic since these traits are also what helps him succeed in school and will serve him well in his adult life if he learns how to manage them: he’s persistent, he questions everything, he won’t back down from a challenge, he will stand up for what he believes to be right no matter what. And–he doesn’t really care what anyone thinks.

Now, in theory, it’s good to be your own person. It’s admirable to be someone who isn’t easily swayed by the crowd. I don’t worry too much about peer pressure with him. He’s a classic example of “marching to the beat of his own drummer”. However, the flip side of that coin is he is sometimes insensitive to other people’s feelings. He becomes singularly focused and acts like it’s his way or the highway. And I know that he is only nine and that eventually he will mature and some of these traits will mellow into a happy medium where I see just the coin, instead of the positive heads and negative tails. But sometimes it is harder to focus on the big picture and I end up mired in the negative parts.

This morning when he was getting dressed I told him to wear something presentable. He put on this nice button down blue shirt. He combed his hair (more on the hair later). He brushed his teeth. He was looking very handsome and proud and ready for his recognition breakfast. I was satisfied.

Then, he began unbuttoning his shirt. He also has this tendency to wear a nice shirt and leave it hanging open with his undershirt showing which isn’t my favorite look, so I told him that when he came in for the ceremony, he should rebutton.

“I’m not wearing this shirt”.

“Why not? You look so nice! It’s perfect”. One of these days, I will learn reverse psychology.

“I don’t like it.” He starts opening his dresser drawers and I know there is nothing in there. He’s already missed the bus for school and I’m going to have to drive him. This is the sort of thing that makes me nuts. But why? It’s a shirt. Who cares?

“What about this one? Is this nice?” He holds up a wrinkled, possibly dirty, stained t-shirt that once upon a time was pretty nice as far as t-shirts go, but that time had passed.

“No! It’s stained and wrinkled!”

He huffs and puffs back to his room. I follow.

“Don’t you want to look nice? There will be a lot of people there. Do you want your friends’ parents to think you are a slob? That your mommy doesn’t care about the way you look or dress or that your mommy doesn’t take care of you?”

He couldn’t care less. I care. That’s obvious. It was even more obvious to me as I began my little spiel.

“No one said we had to dress nice!” he yells.

“But don’t you want to look nice? Have some pride!”

We open his closet where several nice polo shirts and button down shirts are hanging. He chooses the shirt he wore for school pictures. Excellent. I leave the room to get my keys so I can bring him to school.

Then I hear the dresser drawers again. I come out of my room and he has on another wrinkled t-shirt, BACKWARDS, no less…

“No!”

“But I don’t want to wear a button down, it’s not comfortable! I don’t want to! No one else cares!” He starts stomping and doing his impression of a three-year old not getting their way.

At this point we are late and now I’m going to end up having to wear sweatpants to this thing if we don’t get our acts together.

“Fine!” I yell while doing my own spoiled child impression and stomping into his room looking through the paltry selection of ratty t-shirts. “Look like a ragamuffin! Look like your mom doesn’t take proper care of you. Let people wonder whose mom lets them get an award in messy clothes.”

Now I’ve realized that I’m more concerned about what his appearance says about ME than I care about what he’s comfortable in. We go into his brother’s drawer and he pulls out a faded tie-dye shirt that we got on vacation in San Diego. “How about this one?”

I look it over dubiously. There doesn’t appear to be any visible stains, but who can really tell on a tie-dye? I insist on ironing it and then we race out the door so that he is not late to school on the day he is getting an award for showing good character, assumedly punctuality counts for something.

“What would you think if I wore sweatpants to your award?” I asked, because I can’t let it drop. “Wouldn’t you be embarrassed?” He shrugged. “This is why parents dress up for work. What if I wore sweatpants to work? What do you think they would say? I mean, when you grow up, you have to look presentable. You should always have pride in your appearance. Wearing jeans for adults is dressing down, not dressing up! You think if you wear jeans and a clean t-shirt it is dressing up!!…”

I went on for a while and the kid, to his credit, just let me ramble. Because as I’m going on about the clothes and thinking about how much it really matters in the grand scheme of things, inevitably I came to my own conclusion.

“I guess there are more important things to worry about, huh, bud?”

“That’s right, mom.”

Maybe this kid is on the right track, after all. Being comfortable in your own skin is more important than what other people think. If people are going to judge him or me by his tie-dye shirt and his messy “he-is-growing-it-out-and-it-is-in-the-awkward-stage-and-he-hasn’t-quite-gotten-the-hang-of-gel” hair, let them. They don’t know all the awesome things about him. They don’t know all the awesome things about me as a mom. And if they want to judge a book by its cover, they will miss out on one hell of a story.

photo 1  photo 3

One-Liner Wednesday– Happy thoughts

Let’s just think about happy thoughts and not let this spoil our day: Sunshine! Rainbows! Unikitties! You know, they are even better than unicorns…

– my son C, trying to keep us on the happy track


This brilliant insight was brought to you as part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesdays: http://lindaghill.com/2014/12/17/one-liner-wednesday-homeward-bound/

One-Liner Wednesday– Motivation

I’d rather my brain explode from difficulties, than from boredom! – G when asked whether he enjoyed the challenges of the Math Olympiad


As always, One-Liner Wednesdays are brought to you by the smart and funny LindaGHill.