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.

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Yoga pant mafia.

Today, I want to be part of the yoga pant mafia–a phrase my husband affectionately uses to refer to the moms lingering off to the side of the playground at elementary school drop off and pick up. They stand in packs, wearing aviators like my own, without urgency and with well-toned rears shimmering in their 5% Lycra/95% organic fiber yoga pants.

I see myself in the reflection of their lenses, my cell phone in one hand with a call on mute, hurriedly wiping dried chocolate milk from my girls’ faces with the other and kissing their heads goodbye. [Yes, I let them have chocolate milk with breakfast.] I can’t tell if they’re looking at me, if they can sense my envy. Those lenses are so shiny gold and opaque.  Where are they going after this?  Will there be mimosas?

I’m not in yoga pants. My black suit carries strands of our new puppy’s hair, a toddler-sized thumb smear of yogurt and a dry cleaning tag affixed oddly on the inside seam of the seat of my pants. I haven’t yet removed the pin and stiff paper tag.  It’s my own bit of martyrdom today.  A guilty-feeling working mom’s discreet bit of self-flagellation.

But, I’m heading out now for lunch.  A quiet lunch by myself–that would be impossible if I was home.  There is so much that would be impossible if I was a full-fledged member of the yoga pant mafia.   So, I’m taking the tag out of my pants before I head out.

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That smile.

Her mouth is a jumble of big and small teeth.  When she smiles a single adult front tooth disrupts the upper row, throwing the whole grin adorably off-kilter with its size and slight angle inward.  I was staring at a picture texted to me by my husband of her face and that smile tonight, expanding the image between my finger and thumb until all I could see was that smile.  It’s the first physical manifestation of her transition from my little girl to…not so little.  Sure, there was the whole baby teething time period, but that was still a part of infancy.  A time when I could not wait for those milestones to come and go.  But now, I’m not so eager.

I stared at that tooth and my heart sank.  We are on the march to adolescence, and it’s a fast one.  Rag-time fast and syncopated.

She’s only 7.  Some days she wants to sit on my lap and have me hum a familiar song. She nuzzles in while I comb her hair with my fingers, from her temple around her ear to her neck.  The low hum and repeated path of my fingers along her scalp lulls her to sleep. Other days she’ll talk to me about her little sister and brother in the hushed voice of a wise collaborator in parenting.

Mom, don’t worry.  I told him that sometimes you have to try things that make you a little nervous ’cause that’s when the great stuff happens. I told him it’s okay to be scared, and that you can be brave and scared at the same time.  

I’m nervous, but I know great stuff is about to happen.  All too soon her smile will be uniformly grown-up [please God, without the assistance of orthodonture] and she’ll shudder when I start to hum that slow song.  At times she’ll wish for the 250 miles of distance that lies between us tonight, and roll her eyes when I remember out loud that day when she got her first pair of glasses and how cute her little snaggletooth smile was.  She’ll also be on her way to becoming the amazing adult I get to see glimpses of now.   Sweet and brave and strong. Clever and kind and freckled.

Still, I already miss the little girl she was just last year and I miss her tonight, right now.

Good nigh, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Good night, sweet girl. Mommy loves you.

Three things at once.

You can be three things at once. You just have to take turns… ’cause bunnies and cats can’t breathe under water. And whales need to swim deep for food. But they all breathe air.

That’s why the Cat Bunny Whale is all good.

Sass, 5. Found object artist, big (and little) sister, self-help guru.

This mom, wife, lawyer agrees.

   

 

Soggy metaphors for loss and love on the second day of summer camp.

It tends to comes out of nowhere, when it is the furthest thing from my mind. And then it is there, my frontal lobe sending mom-soaked dopamine compounds throughout my brain. Making me stop for a moment in my tracks, just long enough to pass through a sidewalk sprinkler of memories and emotion. The moisture is barely noticeable, quickly evaporating on a summer day. I can choose to stand still and let the sprinkler hit me again, or walk on. Usually I walk on, the shock of it quickly passing. Sometimes it leaves me chilled, but mostly it feels good. Cool and warm at the same time. Like her.

When my mom’s death was fresh, raw and recent, it felt like I was standing at the shore break after a storm. Unevenly spaced waves were crashing around me, carrying tangles of seaweed and other harsh matter dredged from the ocean bottom. It was hard to breathe. I couldn’t move as the sand gripped tighter and higher around my ankles with each wave. My eyes stung too much to open, making it impossible for me to know when the next wave would break over me.

It sucked.

Now, almost 5 years later, it sucks less. I can breathe. My eyes are open and I am no longer stuck in the sand and waves.

Still sometimes, I am drenched by loss of her.

Today was the second day of summer camp for my 3 year old son.  Yesterday’s drop off was easy, but by pick up time he was sobbing.  This morning he was refusing to enter the classroom.  Asking for a new camp, asking to go home, yelling for “one more minute of talking.”

I was late for work already, my mind racing with thoughts of the thousand things that [still] need to get done.  I was tired from his mid-night calls for trips to the bathroom, sips of water, made-up songs about tall towers, and blanket adjustments.  I wanted to pick him up and drop him in the middle of room and run.  I wanted to scream.

I closed my eyes for a second and was hit by the sprinkler. Confusing and cool, the thoughts rained down. I felt her. I felt her perpetual calmness and infinite patience in all child-related matters. I sat down on the bench outside the classroom and looked at his tear-soaked face. I asked if he wanted to play with me for a while and he nodded. We played with imaginary cars and jet planes. Then we zoomed those cars into the classroom and I asked if he wanted to see where his sister sat when this was her classroom. He nodded, then audibly “ooh”-ed as he sat in the chair that was his sister’s. A minute later he waved me off with a quick goodbye and I left.

It was comforting to him to think that his sister once sat where he sat. It is comforting to me to think that my mom was once where I am. I am not her. I don’t have the tolerance that she had; but I still have her.

I have the ability to call upon her, or to have my subconscious call upon her. To splash myself with the memory of her, and let those thoughts work their sometimes sad but, now, mostly wonderful magic. To remind me to stop rushing, to breathe. To let my kid find his way in his time–just like she did for all of hers.  And to abuse oceanic and neuropsychological metaphors–just as she would have done.  Love and miss you, Mommy.

All smiles on the first day. Not so much on the second.

I’m not there tonight.

Mommy, I don’t like it when you’re not here.  I get afraid.

This is what she said to me, sitting straight up in bed at 3 o’clock this morning.

I’d heard her footsteps first. Klunk. Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud.  All 38 pounds of her, driving her small feet in to the floor with the force of a baby elephant.  I sat up in bed and saw her tiny figure standing still in our bedroom doorway, framed by the light we absent-mindedly left on in living room.  By some trick of diffraction the light found its way around three corners to land at her back, to ghostly effect.   I called her name softly, but with some hesitation.  She was honestly freaking me out.  Standing there silently, still.  Her face completely obscured by darkness and too-long bangs.

She turned and ran back to her bed.  Thud, thud, thud, thud, thud.  I pushed the covers away from my legs and followed her, my heart still beating fast from the Stephen King of it all. Continue reading

The First (3rd) Day of School.

We carefully selected her socks yesterday morning.  The uniform rules don’t leave a ton of room for variation, but we thoughtfully chose among the white and navy anklets and knee socks.  I brushed her hair and placed the blue bow off to the side while she watched in the mirror to ensure perfect placement.  Then we were off.  It was the first day of school.  But not really… it was her third day back to school, but my first day to see her go.

Last Friday I was still away for work. This Monday I needed to leave early to stand in front of a judge (thankfully I was not the defendant).  Last Tuesday, I was there with a camera in one hand and tissues in the other, for her older sister’s first day of First Grade. But there was nothing I could do last Friday–short of quitting my job, and the thought did cross my mind–to be there for the first day of Kindergarten.  So, I did something I have done many times before.  I made yesterday the “first day” with full knowledge that it was not. Continue reading

Away from Home

I travel for my job. Not as much as some friends I work with, but more than others. And not as much as those parents that need to leave for really extended times…members of the military and foreign service, folks on ships and rigs, actors on sets in Toronto (isn’t every movie filmed in Toronto?) and so many others.  There are also plenty of nights when I have to work so late that I miss bedtime and might as well be in Toronto.

Every night away can feel like one too many.  Here’s the truth, though.  My kids are fine.  Sometimes they miss me and, frankly, sometimes they don’t. Continue reading