DoYa Dare Me To?

My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny.  I thought that I had the upper hand.  I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.  I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.


My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

Now What?

Hello old friend.  Its been awhile.  I have discovered that I need to be at one extreme or the other to be able to write with any lucidity.  Words don’t come to me in a stream of consciousness that makes any sense when I’m on an even keel and caught up in my every life.  They only seem to flow when I am extremely high or extremely low, because I am usually self-centered during those times, and that’s when I write best.  A conundrum, indeed, for me right now.  I think I am happier than I’ve been in a very long time, yet more fearful of tomorrow.

WP_000944My son took a bride on Saturday night.  I am thrilled, as I have loved her as my own for many years now.  The anticipation and excitement leading up to this day, since the announcement of their engagement on New Year’s Eve, has provided an awesome array of emotions.  Their meticulous planning resulted in an exquisite affair, elegant and understated, charming and sweet.  Their love was almost palpable during the ceremony, and the celebration that followed was classic, and as the mother of the bride stated, one of the true special moments in a parent’s life.

Therein lies my “conundrum.”  Now what?  I already promised not to pressure them for grandchildren.  My daughter has her own agenda, and while we will celebrate her earning her masters degree in December, it may be awhile before we start planning a wedding.   I have spent a lifetime “marking time,” and anticipating the next big thing to which I can look forward.

My son’s answer was simple, as he agreed with my therapist, but then again, he is becoming a seasoned mental health professional, himself.  They both said, “Make something up.”

So I’m writing again.

Humor Me

No, this is not going to be a funny entry.  It’s going to be a self-serving one.  For all the times I’ve sit down to my computer to write with a chip on my shoulder or pain in my heart, this time I’m writing feeling blessed and grateful.  And yes, once again, it’s about my children.

 If I’ve written it once, I’ve probably written it a thousand times, as a parent, all I ever wanted for both of my children was for them to grow up to be happy, healthy and productive individuals, leading fulfilling lives.

 Today, my son launched his website and his Facebook page, announcing the opening of his private practice in Mental Health Counseling.  Since he was in tenth grade, he’s been fascinated by the way the human mind works, and his entire life he has possessed the gift of sensitivity to the human spirit.  He is on his way, to say nothing of the fact that he is to marry the love of his life in two short months.  He is happy, productive and fulfilled.

 Yesterday, my daughter began the second of three graduate level internships in her chosen field, Occupational Therapy.  Her first was in a smaller hospital in Gainesville, and if I understand correctly, she was treating trauma victims.  Now she is at an out-patient Pediatric Clinic, and arm of Miami Children’s Hospital.  She stopped by the house last night glowing, or bubbling, I should say, about how she gets to use logic and creative thinking.  I always marveled at how, throughout her life, she was able to see right past anyone’s differences or shortcomings, and make a beeline right to their heart.  She is so right for this career path.  That, too, is to say nothing of the fact that she has found a new spiritual life that has fulfilled her in ways that nothing else has been able to do.

 So I sit here and write.  There were no cute stories or vignettes.  There was no lashing out at my own discontent.  There is no malice, no resentment, and no pain.  I hope I didn’t disappoint.  None of the words rhymed, there was nothing lyrical; just sheer happiness.  I got what I wanted, like those ice skates on my eleventh birthday.

One Door Closes

The bedroom doors on the south side of the house used to be open.  All the time. That’s the only way I could hear if they were crying, or awake and playing.  When they were in grade school, I could jump on their beds to wake them up, or plop on the floor to help with a project.

When they hit their teens, the doors closed. They wanted privacy. They didn’t want me or their Dad to interrupt them with their friends. They wanted to blast their music without being asked to turn it down. They were probably doing other things that I didn’t want to know about.

The doors remain closed now, except on the rare occasion when the dog pushes them open to find a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. And it’s quiet. There is no longer any music blasting. The sound of teenaged girls giggling is gone. The thumping and thudding of an occasional wrestling or weightlifting episode has died down.  The silence is clamorous.

When they first left, I kept the doors open. Often, I would walk in and inhale deeply, trying desperately to get a sense of their presence in a lingering aftershave or scented candle. I would walk by my son’s room almost expecting to see him sitting at the computer with his guitar on his lap, laboring over tabs for the latest song he was learning. But he wasn’t there.

Two steps further and I would be in front of my daughter’s bedroom door, forever adorned with pictures, quotes and flowers. That door now reminds me of just one more household project that my new best friend, my husband, and I can complete together. We have to remove the old, sticky tape, sand and paint it.  It’s barren.

Keeping the doors closed now is my way of separating myself from that chapter in my life when the machinery of parenting required so many more adjustments and tune-ups. Today, a little oil on the hinges and they swing open and closed for a quick visit, once in a while, and I go back to opening new doors on the north side of the house.

Necessity- the Child of Invention???

We knew our son was smart, and resourceful. He had given us many indications thereof early on. He walked early; he mastered coordination of simple tasks early; he was even speaking in short sentences as early as ten months of age. When I say short sentences, I mean three words. He was not a great orator then, but he did surprise some adults along the way.

Our surprise at his cognitive ability came when he was around fourteen months old, battling a double ear infection that was coupled with a high fever and the gastric symptoms that generally came along with it. He could keep nothing in his stomach. Not even clear fluids. We were instructed, by his pediatrician, (and not his grandmothers), to give him one ounce of Gatorade every hour, until he could keep that down, and then gradually increase the amount.

Our efforts were simply to keep him from getting dehydrated. For him, apparently, it wasn’t enough. We were trying everything we could to divert his attention to other things. Videos, storybooks and games didn’t work. Finally, Daniel decided he wanted to take a shower.

At the precise moment my husband stepped into the lukewarm spray, my son on his shoulder, Daniel turned around, strained his neck toward the water and opened his mouth to drink. He was thirsty. He had a drink. He was satisfied. He kept it down, and he felt better!

What do we know???

You Tickle My Heart

From the moment you came into my life,

From the time I held you in my arms,

I’ve been raised to a different plain.

I’ve been lost to you love and your charms.

You see the world through a child’s eyes.

I’ve been watching you learn and grow.

You have a special way of questioning things.

What makes the sun shine?  What makes the wind blow?

But there is no question that right from the start,

You’ve made me so happy; you tickle my heart.

I can only give you my love, for now.

I can raise you and see to your needs.

I can teach you some of the lessons I’ve learned.

But, I can only plant the seeds.

What you give back is truly a gift.

With northing and time you unfold.

You remind me of what is important in life.

I hope your future is paved in gold.

And there is no question that right from the start,

You’ve made me so happy; you tickle my heart.