Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just between you and me

Let's face it. In our society moms are not honest with each other. This has led to many a mother feeling that she is the only one in the world who is not crazy about dirty diapers and being spit up on and having her three-year-old wake her up three times in the same night needing to go potty. Why don't we call it like it is and say sometimes being a mother stinks. (I'm trying to keep the language here fairly clean.)

Your own mother will look you straight in the eye and tell you things like, "I was only in labor for a few hours, and then I don't know, I pushed a few times and you came out. It really wasn't that bad." What she will fail to tell you was that it was 1973, back in the good old days when women were knocked unconscious to have a baby, so of course it is not bad when you are UNCONSCIOUS and having a baby.

The other thing she will tell you is that she loved being a mother and that is was the most fulfilling thing she ever did and that you need to enjoy it because it just goes by so quickly! Well now that it's been almost 20 years since she had a child at home, it was a wonderful thing to raise children. It's easy to forget the nagging, whining, crying, suck-the-life-right-out-of-you behavior of three children at home all day every day in the summer.

God gives us the grace to forget is all I can say to that. When it comes to our moms, they've forgotten all the mind-numbing daily tasks involved in being a mother, and all they can remember are the sweet, angel things we did as children, not the staight from Hades behavior we sometimes exhibited. So I don't really blame our mothers for lying to us, because they really aren't. They are suffering from selective amnesia.

As for moms my age, I think some of them are out and out liars. When I was a relatively new mom, I had a friend from another town call me up to commiserate. Her son was challenging. He was the colicky type that didn't sleep well, fussed all the time and was downright difficult to deal with. She was having trouble adjusting and was fairly sure she would be the mother of an only child. My first child, on the other hand, was a little piece of heaven sent wrapped up in a blue blanket. He never cried, slept like a champ and adjusted well to any and all new situations. (Don't hate me! I have three kids, and I assure you my last one made up for it.)

Even though my son was the easiest baby ever born, I still had moments that I hated motherhood. I was not crazy about giving up my entire life just to be mom to this child. When you stay home with your child, everything you do is dictated by a little tyrant. They cry and scream to get their way and up until they are a certain age, you just have to accept that. It can be a hard adjustment.

Well, I was honest with my friend and made my usual snide remarks about the glories of motherhood. She told me that she liked calling me because I was honest and made her feel sane. (If you hadn't noticed, mythical reader, my ministry in life is to make other people feel a little less crazy. You're welcome!) Apparently her mommy friends in her town were not honest and were in the business of making other moms feel bad about themselves. One mom at her mommy group told her something along the lines of "I've loved every moment I've ever had with my children." Well, I laughed out loud and told my friend that woman was either a.) a bold-faced liar, b.) on so many "happy pills" that she didn't even know she had children, or c.) was crazy as a loon and her children would grow up warped. I don't care if you are a saint from heaven, there are days when you DO NOT LIKE BEING A MOTHER!!!!

That is not to say that you do not love your children. I would jump in front of a: dump truck, great white shark, terrorist machete, (fill in the blank with your favorite morbid death scene) to save my children. I love them with a crazy all-consuming love that makes me want to smash in the face of a snotty six-year-old little girl who has just hurt my six-year-old baby girl's feelings. Do not doubt for a moment, mythical reader, that I LOVE MY CHILDREN! However, there are days that I can not stand to be in the same room with them or even hear their whiney little voices in another room. This is the dichotomy that is motherhood.

I think sometimes mothers lie to each other because we are scared. We are afraid that if we don't love everything about being a mommy there is something wrong with us. And if, God forbid, another mom were to find out this horrible truth, she would certainly call DCS to have our children permanently removed from our homes. I had a mom tell me one time that she couldn't spank her son, because she was afraid she would lose her mind and beat him -- that's honest. It took me aback, because she is one of the sweetest, kindest women I know, but I completely understood. Kids can make you crazy, and it's easy to lose your cool. Good for her that she knows her limits, so she doesn't put herself in that situation. I think even more of her now than I used to, because I know she's not some Stepford mommy. It's nice to know she is normal like me. But it takes guts to admit that to another mom.

What got me on my soapbox about motherhood is a "conversation" I had with a friend on Facebook. She's pregnant with number three and it is not all butterflies and unicorns, and I think she feels a little guilty about it. Well, I was perfectly honest with her and let her know that I wasn't even the least bit happy about being pregnant with number three until about the sixth month. I mean truly, most women do not like being pregnant. It is not all "brown paper packages tied up with string." It is hemorrhoids and heartburn and insomnia and a few of my other not-so-favorite things.

When people would comment about my third pregnancy and I would give them my lackluster response, they would then ask if it was planned. To which I would say, "Yes, just not well thought out." I had two small children at home and a husband who was out of town working, and it was awful. I felt overwhelmed by the two children I had. What on earth was I going to do with a third? At six months pregnant I realized that I was going to have another baby whether I liked it or not (okay, so I was a little slow on the uptake). I decided the only choice I had was to get happy about it, so I did. And when she was born I thought she was all sweetness and light and one of the most beautiful babies I'd ever seen -- the other two being her siblings. She recenlty turned three and has developed the new habit of screaming at the top of her lungs to try to get what she wants, which makes me contemplate burying her in the backyard until she grows out of it. Just kidding! (It's called hyperbole, mythical reader, look it up.)

My point is that all moms have days when they don't like their children and they don't like being a mom. Quit lying about it! You are making other moms feel bad and that is not nice. This is me now stepping down from my soapbox. Thanks for listening!

*Disclaimer: If you have any thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby shortly after giving birth or adopting a baby, or you can not stop continually crying, CALL YOUR DOCTOR, because that is not normal and you should not be miserable and she will give you something to make it better!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tales from Old-School Third Grade

On Wednesday I forgot to pick up my sweet, precious, beloved, 8-year-old son, and my friend's two children, from camp at their elementary school. There are no excuses. My friend called me at 2:00 to see if I could pick up her son. I said "sure" and "why don't I get your daughter for you, too?" She was appreciative and assumed they were in responsible hands. She may have assumed wrong.

I had 45 minutes to get some things done, so I threw in some laundry and did a few dishes and then sat down at the computer to check on Facebook. Oh Facebook, you black hole of my time, you stealer of all free minutes, why can't I quit you!?! Is it obvious by now, mythical reader, that the next time I looked at the clock - yes, that would be the little clock at the bottom right-hand side of my computer - it was 3:15? Three-freakin'-fifteen! I was supposed to pick them up at 2:50.

It took me about a half a second to process the fact that my son AND TWO OTHER CHILDREN WHO I AM ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR had been waiting in line for 25 minutes at school, yet I was still sitting at my desk. I called the office and practically yelled at the secretary "I'M-ON-MY-WAY-I'M-SO-SORRY-PLEASE-TELL-THEM-I'LL-BE-RIGHT-THERE!" and then hung up the phone. Not two seconds later it rang and from the number I could tell it was Mrs. "B", who is in charge of the camp, calling to see if I was dead or in a ditch, because that is the only excuse for not picking up your children, right? So, I grabbed the phone and blurted out, "I'M-SO-SORRY-I-LOST-TRACK-OF-TIME-I-JUST-CALLED-THE-OFFICE-TO-TELL-THEM-AND-I'LL-BE-THERE-IN-JUST-A-MINUTE!" Before I could slam the phone down and take off out the door, she told me to calm down and don't wreck on the way and that she wasn't going anywhere.

Have I mentioned, mythical reader, that I live in the very best small town in the country? Well, I do. The county just built us a brand-new elementary school with all the best that technology has to offer, but we still have our same small-town teachers who love our children and the same small-town kids who all know each other, and I absolutely, positively can't imagine my children going to school anywhere else, forever and ever amen!

Well, after pulling up to the school and hearing my son proclaim with dramatic flair, "I can't believe you forgot us!", I got out of the car to apologize to Mrs. "B". She just laughed it off and said she told them she was going to take them home with her and serve frog legs and onions for dinner, which I thought was hysterical. 'Weird' food is one thing that makes my easygoing oldest child lose his mind. But just imagining her taking them home, reminded me of a story. And if you've know me for more than five minutes, mythical reader, you know I love telling stories.

Back in the early 80's when I was a third grader in another small town at another small school, I had Mrs. "W" for a teacher. Mrs. "W" was a great teacher. She did tell us one time after a music assembly that "rock-n-roll music" could change the rhythm of our hearts and that when we got to high school our friends might try to put drugs in our food at the cafeteria, so we should never take our eyes off our food. But other than that one side-trip to crazy town, she was a fabulous teacher.

When it was time to learn our multiplication tables, she came up with a contest. This was no ordinary contest. This was the contest to end all contests. Being the competitive little thing that I was (am), I was determined to win. It came down to the wire. Sarah "C" and Amy "M" and I were neck and neck and were all ready to say our last multiplication table on the same day. Mrs. "W" decided that the only fair way to determine the winner was to let us all say the last table that day, and if we all got it right, it would be a tie. As I'm sure you can imagine, it was a three-way tie. For our prize, we got to go see a movie with Mrs. "W" and her family on a Saturday and then go out to eat pizza. But wait, that's not all. We also got to go home with her to spend the night at her house. And as if that wasn't enough, we also got to, wait for it ... GO TO THE FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH WITH HER ON SUNDAY MORNING!!! We thought it was the greatest prize EVER!

Yes, I hear you peoople at the ACLU going into apoplexy as I type, and I say "kiss it," because those were the good ol' days! It was wonderful. There are three things that I remember most about that weekend. One was that I got into the backseat of the wrong non-descript white sedan after we had eaten pizza and was momentarily horrified. The second was that I was so nervous about going to Mrs. "W"s church, because I was a good Southern Baptist girl, and I thought there might be kneeling or praying outloud involved at the Methodist church, and I didn't know what to do about that. I don't remember much about the service, so it must have been fine. The last thing I remember about that strange, wonderful weekend was fixing my hair in the bathroom in the morning before church.

At 8 years old in the third grade I curled my hair with a curling iron about every day. (I think I just remembered a hideous Toni home perm that my mother gave me that year that was growing out. Oh, I think I might need me some therapy now.) Anyway, Mrs. "W"s daughter was a few years older than we were and she was amazed that we were fixing our own hair, because her mother was still fixing her hair for her. I remember wondering why on earth she didn't do it herself. And once her mother saw us (I'm pretty sure Sarah was curling her own hair, too) she decided her daughter was plenty old enough to fix her own hair.

Looking back I'm not sure what shocks me most, that a teacher would let students spend the night with her, or that 8-year-old little girls could be trusted with HOT CURLING IRONS to fix their own hair. (The church part doesn't really shock me, because truly when you live in the Buckle of the Bible Belt in 1983 and you've invited your students to spend the night with you on a Saturday night, what else are you going to do with them on Sunday morning but take them to church?) Yes, I think remembering that curling iron is the kicker for me. It makes me realize that I am way too overprotective of my children. I am so afraid of them getting hurt, I don't let them touch anything. I'm sure that my 8-year-old has never cut anything with a knife. And the thought of him using any implement - even a brush - to fix his hair is ludicrous. He wets it a little so it doesn't stick up, but he surely doesn't brush it. (But that is probably a girl vs. boy thing, rather than a capability thing.) Good grief, I'm fairly certain my father was using large, sharp, rusty farm equipment at the age of 8, so I think I can now entrust my son with a butter knife. Actually, he will earn his whittling chip in Cub Scouts this year, so I think that is a step in the right direction.

Don't worry, mythical reader, I'm not planning on handing over sharp/hot/rusty implements to my children and setting them free, but I think it's high time I started entrusting them with more responsibility. I don't expect my oldest to go out and plow the field, but seeing that he can reach level 42 on his favorite Wii game, I think opening the washer, throwing in some clothes and soap and pushing the on button is not above his capability level. I guess we'll see. I'm so glad I was reminiscing about how things were "back in the day," and I'm sure my children will be thrilled with their new responsibilities. And to think, it's all because I was irresponsible about picking up my child at school. Ironic, huh?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Good Lord willing

and the Creek Don't Rise...

If you are from the South, chances are you've heard this phrase a time or two. I can remember growing up hearing a little old lady making plans, "The Good Lord willing I'll see you at lunch on Friday." I wondered what on earth she was talking about. What did the Good Lord have to do with lunch on Friday? Why would He care if she went to lunch or not? Later when I heard the creek part thrown in a time or two, I really got to thinking. Why would the creek rise, and where is this mysterious creek that that has a mind of its own, and what on earth does it have to do with anything?

Have I mentioned I was a very literal child? Now that I'm a little older, I've come to understand this phrase better than I ever imagined. Being the mother of three young children, every plan I make seems to have an air of "if the creek don't rise" to it.

Friend: "Why don't you guys come over for a playdate next week."
Me: "Sounds great" (assuming of course that no one catches the swine flu, breaks a leg, or develops whooping cough).

Husband: "Let's go to the beach at the end of July."
Me: "Sure!" (unless of course the car breaks down, or the downstairs air conditioning unit finally gives out.)

Don't get me wrong. I am not a pessimist. In fact, I've always been fairly entrenched in the optimists' camp. But, mythical reader, let's be honest. Sometimes the Good Lord is not willing and sometimes the creek does rise, and who am I to say it should be any different. Husbands go out of town for work unexpectedly; children break out in hives for no apparent reason; and babysitters cancel. So, sometimes it's just easier not to make plans lest someone be disappointed. But for me, not making plans because they may be broken has become an excuse, a cop out.

I've been telling myself for years that I should write a blog. In a former life I was a writer (that would be the life I lived pre-children, not an actual previous life for those of you now concerned about the state of my soul.) But every time I would think about finally writing a blog, I'd get swept up in the rising tide: "When do I have time to write?" "My kids will never leave me alone long enough to write." "It's so noisy in hear I can't string two words together, much less two paragraphs."

But what I have finally come to realize is that being a writer isn't just about writing words on paper and having them published. Being a writer is who I am. Even though I haven't been published in years, that doesn't mean I haven't been writing. Even with the screaming, whining, crying and fussing that three children can produce, I've been composing articles, essays, newsletters, blog posts, etc. in my head for years, and it is time, mythical reader, to let them out.

So, I'm making plans. The Good Lord willing, I am going to write! (And I think it might actually be part of His plan, so here I go). I'll admit I'm a little nervous. It's been a while since I've had an audience. It's also been a while since I've had a deadline that did not include turning in permission slips to school. My plan is to write frequently, even though I have three kids who will yell, whine and screech to get my attention while I write. (There's that creek again! You never know when it's going to rear its ugly head.)

My thought is that maybe if I do start writing again (outside of my head, that is) I will feel a little more like myself, a grown-up, accomplished woman, and not just like my kids' mom. Please don't misunderstand. I love being my kids' mom, but what I don't love is overhearing my son say, "my dad's an engineer, but my mom's just a mom." (That could be a whole blog post in and of itself, but we'll just leave it at "it bothers me" for now.) I think maybe it's time for me to be more than "just a mom" to keep from going completely insane! So, read me if you want or don't. I don't care (actually I care way more than I should, mythical reader, but I'm trying to be blase' about the whole thing). I'll be posting here either way.