Almost 11.

She rides shotgun now.

And wears my shoes. The ones that no longer fit me.

At a certain point you’re supposed to stop growing. At least most of you is supposed to stop.

My feet grew though. A half size times three.

She’s the oldest. Responsible for the first half size of podiatric stretch.

She’s responsible for so much.

She’s next to me. Her profile growing more refined with each glance. I can barely see the baby see once was.

My shoes won’t fit her next year.

Then she turns to me. Her eyes have not changed.

Their blue grey shining with the reflection ice lacquered trees outside her window. Reflecting my love. And making my heart grow a half size.

“Keep your eyes on the road, mama,” she says.

Advertisements

Waning moon.

His limbs wrap around me like a boa constrictor. My neck, my waist, my left leg encircled and a hand stretched impossibly from the base of my skull to my cheek.

This 6 year old belongs in his own bed. But I don’t move him. I don’t resist his nighttime slithering and squeezing because I know this will not last. Soon enough he’ll decide he’s too old for this.

As my mom laid in a hospital bed after learning she was diagnosed with a cancer that would all too soon take her from us, I slid myself in next to her. I wrapped my limbs around her and squeezed.

My mom was a next level snuggler. She loved us in her bed. At some point though, I was too old for such raw affection. I stopped my slumbered slipping into her room.

Now my big girls, once baby boa constrictors themselves, still find their way into my bed. Mostly when they’re sick but sometimes, on rare weekend mornings when we’re not rushed to get to a soccer field or ice rink, they’ll snuggle. We’ll talk about the things on their minds. Big things and small things. But it’s not enough.

That warmth, their whispered questions in the pale morning light, their arms around me. It’s pure mama bliss.

It’s dark tonight. Clouds send the waning moon’s light back toward heaven.

I’m not moving him out of the bed.

Mama’s Day

Motherhood is whispering the end of the story to an 8 year old who’s too afraid to keep reading Harry Potter. It’s unclogging a toilet when a kid finally poops after 5 days of not pooping. It’s combing lice.

It’s watching a night vision video monitor intently, trying to see if the baby’s chest is rising and falling but not wanting to go in and wake her up. It’s reading a book you’ve read a thousand times and trying (and failing) to match the enthusiasm and voices you’ve given to its characters the last 999 times.

It’s craving the scent of the napes of their necks and their bodies snuggled in your bed when they really should be in their own. It’s worrying if they’ll remember that thing you said in frustration that you wish you hadn’t. It’s imagining who they’ll be as teens, as adults, without you.

It’s excruciating.

It’s excruciatingly beautiful.

I miss my mom.

I want to be a great mom.

I’m so very grateful to be a mom.

Agency.

For months she’d been asking to get her ears pierced. Her sister did it for her 8th birthday two years ago without incident.  A quick visit to a local retail chain and, click, click, sister was done.  On to a lifetime of accessorizing her earlobes with assorted enamel emojis, sure to be followed by dangly odd creations in her teens, and someday a couple of tasteful, inherited pearls.

Little sister’s 8th birthday was a week behind us when we arrived at the mall. The piercing had to wait until the soccer season wrapped up. We scooted straight from the last game to the mall, excitement building as we discussed the relative merits of a simple gold ball vs. a heart or star.  The non-ball shapes would be easier to turn which anyone who’s ever been pierced knows is an important task. As the wound heals you don’t want adhesion.

Adhesion.

“What is adhesion, mama?  Is it painful? Will it hurt when they put the earrings in, will it hurt afterward? Is it like a shot or a little pinch? On a scale of one to a billion just how much will it hurt.”

Oh boy.

Trouble was brewing.  Still we made it to the store and completed the paperwork. We watched as two slightly older junior cheerleaders with large bows in their hair sat still while bezeled cubic zirconias were plunged into their lobes. Click, wince, click. Click, “that wasn’t so bad,” click.

No tears. Big smiles, as big as their bows.

Then it was our turn. She sat in the high chair, like a bar stool, looking like she could use some liquid courage. Her eyes, pupils now swollen to twice their usual size, were darting all over the place.

“It’s okay, kiddo. It’s going to be fine. Do you still want to do this?”

She did. But she needed a minute.

That minute turned to 36. 36 minutes of a patient latex-gloved piercer standing by while my poor girl alternated between deep breaths and whispered self-encouragement.

You can do this. No biggie. You can do this. But I don’t want to do this. But I want to do this. You can do this. Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, don’t be scared.

And so it went for 8 more minutes. 44 minutes of sitting in that high chair. 44 minutes of me working through my own waves of guilt, frustration, love, pride, and acceptance.

So what.

Come on.

Do I hold her down?

We should go.

Let’s give her another minute.

I’m pretty sure every minute I let her sit here is an hour of therapy I’ll need to pay for some day.

I should tell her to suck it up.

This is what she wants.

It’s her body.

It’s not my choice.

It’s not anyone else’s choice but hers.

We left at the 44 minute mark. Her ears bearing small black Sharpie dots where earrings might have been.

I paid for the earrings because the hypoallergenic case had been opened.

She says she wants to try again when she’s 9.

Broken promise.

I promised myself I wouldn’t mark the day of her passing anymore. That I would celebrate her birthday in absentia. That I would whisper a Happy Mama’s Day to the universe and hope it finds its way to her. That I’d take a couple minutes to prepare thoughtful questions before teacher conferences and always remember to express my gratitude to the people who devote their lives to making my kids wiser, more empathetic some-day adults. That I would sit with her memory on Christmas Eve after everyone else was in bed and quietly count gifts to ensure fairness and count blessings to remind myself of just how freaking lucky I am. 

And I’ve done all of that, except the first. I’m marking the day. 

It’ll be 6 years tomorrow.  6 whole years since we held her hands, kissed her face,  and told her it was okay for her to go when absolutely none of us thought it was okay.

It will never be okay. If she had been 115 years old it would not have been okay.  

So I’m marking the day because I have to. Because ignoring it doesn’t work. I’m marking it because a lot of wonderful and awful things have happened in this past year that she missed.  Because Michigan footfall is fun to watch again. Because her grandkids are big, and fast-witted, and telling stories she’d love to hear, and challenging their mothers in ways we’d love to discuss with our mother. Because a man of limited vocabulary, humanity, foresight, Constitutional knowledge, historical perspective, restraint, respect for others, and glove size (which, in this case, is a euphemism for grasp on reality) wants to be President and I’d love to hear what she’d have to say about it. Because there is a new Harry Potter book and I almost didn’t read it because she would be so mad to have missed it. Because I’ve made some big, hairy decisions about my professional life, and broke my knee in a fluke slippery tomato accident, and am turning 40 next month, and I still need my mommy. 

I’m marking it because it reminds me that all of it–all of this wild and magical and inexplicably terrible and brilliant life is infinitely better when shared with someone you love, who loves you, who loves even your harshest edges.

I’m marking it because I’m lucky to have had her love for almost 34 years.  And because even though it was an awful day, it was a day with her and I didn’t get enough of them. 

Next day.

By bedtime tonight all was right in his world. He told me he loved me and wished my patellas to feel better soon.  He chose one of his sisters to read his bedtime story, snuggled up with a dragon, a jaguar, and a pillow resembling his favorite food group: pizza, and he pronounced that the “next day is going to be hilarious.”

Time in his 4 year old brain exists pretty much solely on 3 planes. Last day, today, and next day. Past, present, future. 

It’s beautiful and simple. He moves swiftly past the past and present, and focuses largely on next day which is great. Great because I am the best parent ever in next day. 

Next day is where all of my best parenting intentions live.

Sometimes I live up to those intentions, and some days I don’t. 

Last day he ran away from home for the first time. Planting himself under an old pine tree across our driveway, he declared that plot of half grass, half pine needle land his new home, and said that he would survive there own his own. He’d had enough of me and his demanding, tattling sisters. He had no use for my rules. Ones like “don’t run over your sister on your bike” and “bicycles are not weapons” and “don’t ride your bike with your finger in your nose.”

Eventually though, he had use for dinner and hugs, and he came home. 

My best parenting intentions were fulfilled in this instance. I didn’t yell [this time] and freak out about his defiance–I let him run, let him figure it out on his own, and let him come home to a hug that said he’s always got a place in my arms no matter what. 

Today though, I screwed up. Today was the day that his preschool class read the books they “wrote” to an audience of parents. That audience did not include his parents. We didn’t know it was happening today or forgot. The why doesn’t matter so much in last day or today. We simply weren’t there. 

Tonight at dinner he told me that he “melted because [we] weren’t there.” I held his melty face in my hands and told him we made arrangements to be there tomorrow. We’d see him read his book tomorrow. 

But “melting” was an insufficient description for him. He went on. 

Mama, you know how da seats in da minivan are squishering seats? How you pull da button and da seat pushed down? Folded down? Dat’s how I was feeling in my inside brain. Folded down. 

Ugh. Just ugh.

I’m going to fix this next day.

I’ll do my best. And I’ll know that if it isn’t completely fixed, I still have the next day to try again.  

Us, in a shiny happy moment last day.

No time to spare.

We herded three kids under 8 off the C train at 81st and headed toward the museum. The line was around the block, hundreds of rain soaked tourists and Spring Breakers, like us, at a standstill. We couldn’t wait. 

Our NYC day had been carefully planned. Natural History then lunch at Serendipity, followed by Battery Park and a cruise to Lady Liberty. Then back up to a Times Square much more kid-appropriate than the one of my youth, and dinner before crashing in a hotel room illuminated by the lights of Broadway. There was no room on the agenda for standing idle in the rain. No room at all.

Across the street Central Park beckoned. Not on the agenda, but it was a mere 2 mile stroller-less walk to Frrrozen Hot Chocolate bliss through the park. Why not?

We ran. Up and down rocks and trails and around the pond. We chased pigeons through puddles despite parental admonitions concerning wet socks and much more walking/running to come. We chased more pigeons and then had to stop.

The boy was sobbing. His feet were squishy, he was cold. His 4 year old face was covered in tears and rain and unsanitary park puddle water. 

We stood him on a bench and removed his shoes, then peeled his socks from his feet. As we wrung out his–carefully chosen in homage to our first intended destination–dinosaur socks he was still crying and now yelling, “There’s no time to spare…no time to spare!”

Like an end-of-days evangelist shouting on a street corner, he was expressing exactly what I was feeling, there is absolutely no time to spare. 

There was and is so much to do, and the most important of those things was precisely what we were doing. Not the pigeons and forced march through the rain, exactly, but the time spent with just the 5 of us. Time together not racing to or from activities or squeezed between work commitments. Real, uninterrupted, loud, messy, and sweet time. There is just so little, too little of that time.

We put the less-wet but still soggy socks back on his feet and headed off to pet horses waiting for carriage riders, chase more pigeons, climb more rocks, and continue on in our now less-scheduled day. 

We hit some of our agenda but mostly we roamed. We clocked a ridiculous amount of steps and a glorious amount of time together.  We laughed and hugged, and irritated city dwellers with our sidewalk stops to wonder at the sights around us. We took turns carrying exhausted kids on our backs, and my husband and I made a new plan. 

Our new plan is to stop. Stop ourselves and each other in those moments of parental and professional overwhelming stress–those times when we can’t see the forest of our beautiful family and life together through the trees. We will stop and remember that there is no time to spare.  At least we plan to try. 

  

Save the Pandas.

I texted the dog walker today to ask if he could take our pup home with him for a weekend over Spring break. He responded that my 8 year old daughter had already confirmed the arrangements…a month ago. 

She is amazing. So on top of her world, and ours. So concerned about the order of things and the wellbeing of all those things and people. So believing in her own ability to make a difference and set things right. 

Last night she asked that I make copies of a flyer she’s drafted. She wants people to know what they can do to protect giant (and red) pandas. She believes that people only need the right information to make the right choice. 

Mama, if they know what to do then they will do it.

If only it was that simple. 

I knew a month ago that I needed to find a home for the dog for the weekend. But it took me until now, the very last minute, to act. 

She wants to talk about who’s running for President and she tells me about the things she hears on the news and on the playground. She’s heard things that scare her. She’s heard things that run contrary to all she’s been told about what’s right and how people, all people, should be treated.  

I’m worried.

I’m worried about her apparent belief that she needs to take care of things like the dog’s vacation accommodations. I’m worried that a part of her already understands that adults–including her father and me–don’t always take care of things, at least not with the urgency that she believes is needed. I’m worried about the possibility that we adults could elect a President who shits all over the values she holds. I’m worried that she’ll distribute her flyers only to learn that most people will not care about the pandas.

On the other hand, her trust that people will eventually do the right thing when provided the right information is evidence that all hope, all faith in the decency of people, is not lost. 

And my eventual efforts to find a weekend home for the dog are a good sign too. I can tell her that I talked with the dog walker today and thank her for being so on top of it. I will assure her that we are on top of it all too and that she doesn’t need to worry. I will give her the copies I made of her flyer and she’ll have them to distribute tomorrow. And I will dish out some ice cream and we’ll dance to Miley Cyrus’s joyous ode to America, Party in the USA, because that’s the best way I know to ensure that the day ends on a high note. 

I won’t be a chisel to the edifice of her faith in mankind…and her parents. At least not today. 

  
 

Farewell fish.

The lifespan of genetically modified fluorescent fish (as reported by their evil genius creators) is about a year. Today, Bjorkland, Front End Loader II, and Glow-ey left this mortal world, defying the odds and living well beyond what was expected.

They left together, like those stories of sweet old couples who take their last breaths within minutes of each other, except they were a threesome. 

Rest in GMO day-glow polyamorous peace you much-loved weirdos.
Thankfully, the kids all seem okay. Just a few minutes of circle of life talk followed by the almost 8 year old fact-checking my lifespan claims via Google, and they were off and interested in other things.  Mostly though I suspect that they think the loss of the fish paves the way for a pet caracal. Dream on, my sweet little wannabe zookeepers.  Dream on.

  

Her success is not your failure.

I work in a job where my time devoted to clients is accounted for in 6 minute increments.  I used to think 6 minutes was nothing.  I took 6 minutes, at least, to decide what to wear in the morning.  Not anymore.  I am a parent of three kids, I am a wife, I work long hours outside the home. I am a daughter, sister and friend. I like trashy television and unbelievable spy novels. I have a dog whose favorite food group is underwear (thankfully after it’s been removed from the body).

6 minutes is a lifetime. In 6 minutes I can rescue a favorite pair of dinosaur-patterned briefs, pack 2 school lunches, apply one band-aid to a non-existent boo boo, and register a kid for softball.

Still, I’ve been feeling a lot lately like I am sucking at all of it.  Like the imposing weight of all my hats is crushing my neck, forcing me to stare constantly down at my scuffed-up shoes. The weight is imposing, but none of the hats can fall. They are all too important and it’s impossible to wear only one at a time.  Where would I store them?

Mid-conference call I have to field an email from the school nurse about a mysterious “fainty” feeling one of the girls is experiencing.  While cooking dinner I need to stir with one hand while answering a text from a client with the other.  While reading one of those cold war era spy novels at midnight I remember the call I was supposed to make to a friend so dear she’s (fingers crossed) forgiven me for not calling in months.  While helping with one’s math homework I have to answer questions from the other two about heaven and angels, and how angels are different than ghosts and the tooth fairy, what happened on September 11th, and why the dog likes to eat underwear.

But I’m doing it.  I’m doing it all with all those hats piled sky-high on my ever more gray hair.  I’m doing it, and watching amazing women (and men) all around me do it like rock stars. 

Some of them are having total Beyoncé moments in front me. They are killing it. Glittering with shiny success, and sometimes causing my intestines to cramp with jealousy.  

But then I remember that their success is not my failure. And I remember that I ate that awful wrap sandwich for lunch, and that the cramps are likely the result of said oddly colored tortilla and its contents. Was it chicken or tuna? Who the fuck knows. Either way, their success should not cause me to feel sick. 

Their success is to be celebrated. Some days you’re Beyoncé. Some days you’re the friend aiming the fan that makes her hair blow just right.  

Today, I’m both. I’m heading out to celebrate the success of a whole band of Beyoncés, including me.  We’re going to spend a lot longer than 6 minutes applauding each other. And I will not be eating a wrap sandwich.