A senior letter

This has to be one of the hardest letters I have ever written. xoxo

I’m supposed to be writing you a senior letter, probably without getting emotional.  HAHA!  Yeah, right. We both know better than that.

Starting with the most mundane, I’ll remind you how proud I am of you.  Words cannot tell you how proud I am.  You’ve become every bit of the man I had hoped you would when I met you 18 years ago.  I prayed you would take the good characteristics of your dad and me and mix them together with your own spin to turn into an amazing man, and you have done that plus so much more.  You’re better than I could have dreamed, God truly blessed me more than I deserve.  You have a beautiful heart and soul, more than you really know – don’t let life ruin that.  You’re more than just smart, you’re sincerely intellectual.  You consider all things and analyze the good and bad before making a decision or judgment.  That’s really the key to life, kid, so you have a one-up on most people already.

I’ve watched you learn to crawl, walk, talk, and read.  I’ve watched you learn to ride a bike, play soccer, play guitar, and drive a car.  I’ve watched you walk into your first day of pre-school, kindergarten, middle school, and high school.  I’ve watched you drive off to your first job.  I’ve watched you go on your first date.  I’ve watched you drive off for your senior prom.  Soon, I’ll watch you walk up on stage and receive your diploma.  Soon, I’ll watch you drive off for your next adventure in the Navy.  You have been a joy and blessing to watch and I cannot wait to watch all the next stages in your life.

I admit that when you first told me about your aspirations to join our military, my heart broke.  It was a selfish act, and it took a long, long time for me to come to peace with that.  I didn’t want to think about you leaving me.  You and I have had each other for 18 years, you’re my firstborn and I just wasn’t ready to face the fact that you’ve become an amazing man who doesn’t enter into things lightly.  It’s because of this and your infallible reasoning that I got on board and knew in my heart you would do amazing things with this opportunity.

I read somewhere that I’m supposed to tell you what I want for you or expect out of you.  Like so many parts of our family and relationship, my wants and expectations aren’t really traditional.  Of course, I want you to get an education, find a good job, meet and marry a great girl, start a family, and all that jazz.  But, Austin, I want so much more for you.  I want you to leave this little town, join the Navy, and see the world.  I want you to live with no strings attached.  You have such a great opportunity to do things very few people get the chance to do.  Since you could read (at the ripe age of 2½) you’ve been fascinated with the world.  You’ve been interested in all things history and science.  Go see all those countries you have only ever read about.  Go see, feel, touch the history of the world and let that experience blow you away.  Life is so short, baby, and you have the rest of your life for settling down.  Hold off on that day to day grind just a bit longer and make adventure your next path.

What do I expect out of you?  Greatness.  However, before greatness, I expect you to live your life to the absolute fullest.  Drink a beer with your new brotherhood and make stupid decisions that won’t cost you too much in the end – you know like an arrest and big ass tattoos that you’ll regret later (and coming from me that’s saying a LOT).  Get your heart broken a few times because until you do, there’s no other way to know real love when it comes to you.

You’re one of my greatest accomplishments in life.  If I have done nothing else in this life, I have raised a great boy into a phenomenal man.  I know that you’ll take part of me, your dad, your brother, and sister & papa and nana with you along the way and we will help keep you grounded…just enough – not too much.

You’re going to be scared, you’re going to be nervous, and I’m sure there will be days you’ll just want to come home, but those days will be few and far between.  You will succeed.  You will be ok.  You will overcome.

Go start your life, baby – it’s only just beginning.  I’m so proud of you and all that you’ve become.  I love you with all that I am and all that I have, son.

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Enough

When is enough, enough?  Is there ever a time, as a wife and a mother, that I can throw my hands up in the air and (not wave them like I just don’t care…) say – to hell with this, I’ve had enough!  Theoretically, I did just that the other day.  I went on “strike” *insert hysterical laughter here*.  What was I thinking?  That all of a sudden the kids and husband would hear the archangels singing and try to fix everything that I’ve been bitching about?  Pfft.  Yeah, right.

I have teens.  I don’t have really young kids.  In less than 6 months I will have an 18-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 13-year-old.  Oh, and a 38-year-old…*ahem*.  Yet, at some point these four individuals must have fallen and smacked their precious heads on some sort of hard surface and have completely and utterly forgotten how to use their senses.  Particularly the sense that tells them there are chores to be done – your bathroom looks like it’s growing something in the sink, the dogs have no water, you might have worn that a time or two since the last wash cycle, there’s a smell coming from your bathroom that is going to disturb the neighbors, and OMG you must be sleeping with a zombie because that’s what your room smells like!

So, I lost my shit.  Again.  I explained how absolutely tired I was of being the maid.  Because that’s how I feel…blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda (like Charlie Brown’s teacher only more life-like).  Most days it’s not worth the fight and I just handle it all myself – working, cooking, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping, doing the leftover dishes that must have been wearing an invisibility cloak the night before, cleaning the house, and doing every stitch of laundry Mr. EMT and I own because otherwise he will attempt to ‘do’ laundry and we’ll forever be throwing shit in the dryer on wrinkle-free.

The strike lasted a day and a half.  The day I lost my shit, Mr. EMT was home from work and school, a rarity these days.  Thus, I sent him a message and explained what I saw that morning and that I was on strike until I saw the rest of the family learn to pick up after themselves and do their chores.  He had them clean, and clean well – for exactly one day.  It lasted for one day.  Because the dishes wore an invisibility cloak yet again last night, I refused to cook.  Make yourself something to eat, I said.  Heat up leftovers, I said.  AND DO THE MOTHERFUCKING DISHES, I said.  Well, not so drastically, but that’s how I wanted to say it.

I woke up in a little better mood today and I decided I would rather be pissed off and bitchy than to live in a crappily maintained home.  I was going to buck up and do all the stuff I didn’t do since Tuesday when I got home today.  However, insert a call from The Little’s school and I’m right back to wanting to scream ‘Enough is Enough’!  He got into trouble….again….albeit the first time in 3 weeks.  He’s a work in progress, but that’s for another post in the future about dealing with middle school kids with two parents who don’t often agree on parenting style.

With all that being said, I realize I cannot actually give up.  I have to remain married to Mr. EMT even though I wanted to punch him in the throat this week; I have to remain a mother to three unappreciative adolescents and try to remember that one day they will thank me for this shit; and I have to remember to buy another bottle of wine before I get home….because enough may very well be enough, but that does not count for wine.

To be or not to be…transitioning

My friends over at Merriam-Webster define transition as such:

     a:  passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another :  change

     b:  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another

I suppose I am speaking about definition ‘b’.  You see, in 8 months The Eldest will be 18 years old; he will be an adult – legal age.  He will also be a senior in high school and, in my humble opinion, this makes him still a kid…cause he’s still in school…duh.  All this brings me to a conversation he and I had on the way to school this morning which I will share shortly.  (No, he doesn’t drive yet which is another kid thing)

He’s been moody this week.  Not disrespectful, but not his normal, chatty self.  He’s also been grounded from phone and Xbox use due to a failing grade.  Granted he’s struggling in the subject, but he failed to bring this to his dad’s or my attention before we found out about the grade.  We don’t punish if a kid is genuinely struggling as long as we know and they are seeking additional aid in the subject.  Neither has happened, thus he is grounded until the grade is passing.  Simple, no?  Well, not for him – evidently.  Mr. Grumpy Gills (to quote one of his favorite kid movies…) let it be known today that he disagrees which got me thinking about this whole transition from kid to adult thing we are going through.

Me: What’s with you this week?  You’re unusually grumpy.

The Eldest: I’m still upset.

Me: Ok, I’ll bite.  Why are you upset?  Let alone still…

The Eldest:  I’m grounded.  You realize I’ll be able to vote this year, right?  And I’m grounded like a kid.

Me:  There’s not an election this year so you can’t vote.  You’re 17, in high school, and I’m driving you to school – you’re kinda still a kid.

The Eldest: I’m probably joining the military this time next year, I drink coffee, and I could vote if there was an election this year…and you’ve taken my phone from me, I’m almost not a kid.

Me: ….

The Eldest: ….

Me: Ok….but since you’re almost not a kid and you’re absolutely failing a class and you’re definitely not paying for said phone because you don’t even have a job…you’re still grounded until the grade comes up.

The Eldest:  *sigh* *facepalm* You never understand me!

Me: Haha…there it is, the adult conversation I was looking for.  Nice try, kid…go to class.

So, the normally articulate one wasn’t able to pull off a good enough reason to not be grounded.  Maybe it is because it was first thing in the morning, maybe it was because he didn’t take but 2 sips of coffee because he didn’t add enough caramel creamer to give a diabetic a coma, or maybe…just maybe he realized his mom is right.  HA!  Fat chance.  I think it’s because even though we are transitioning from kid to adult, he is still very clearly a kid.  I don’t remember this transition when I was his age, but I’ll bet my parents do.  This next year should be entertaining at the very least.  Wish me luck.

Parenting, it ain’t for the light hearted

Going into parenting, I was a nervous wreck.  I got pregnant young, almost too young to be a parent.  I was an adult, but only just barely.  Looking at my 17-year-old son today, I cannot imagine him becoming a parent in a couple years, like his father and I did.  I was a wreck somewhat because of our ages, but mostly because I had no idea what the hell I was doing.  I was going to be responsible for another life.  How was that going to work?  I still could hardly separate colors successfully and not turn white underwear pink.

I was given this awesome book, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’.  I read it cover to cover 3 times before I ever laid eyes on the kid growing in my stomach.  Then, when he came I read ‘What to Expect the First Year’.  Again, I read it cover to cover countless times.  I was ready.  I was prepared.  Turns out there was no way I could turn him pink during bath time (well, except that one time with the bath paint, but let’s not go there).  We were good.

I went blithely through colic and the toddler stage to preschool and then had a couple more kids along the way.  I was becoming a pro at this.  I was raising three kids and no one turned pink again.  We taught them ‘stranger danger’, how to escape during a fire, where to go if they got lost, code words for people claiming to be sent by us, and all the likes of parenting 101.  Parenting magazines were a Godsend during the younger years and we thrived as a family.  We read advice columns, we exchanged ideas between our friends, and we relied on the past experiences our parents had and combined them all for super parenting, like a superpower.

All those years, all those books and not one time did anyone mention what could really hurt your kid.  Adolescence and hormones.  I didn’t read anywhere about what to do if your child experimented with cutting.  I didn’t get any advice about what to do when your child withdrew and started listening to questionable music and wanting to dress in all black.  Nowhere in those books did I read what to do when your sweet children are replaced by kids full of eye rolls, blank stares, deadly stares, exaggerated sighs, unanswered questions, phones glued to hands, and mood swings that would make even the scariest roller coaster jealous.

Cellphone etiquette wasn’t listed in those books, either.  Sure, we made rules as we went, but this isn’t something that was an issue during our upbringing so we were just winging it.  There was no parenting book that told you exactly how to handle apps and social media and sexting.  There’s no ‘What to Expect’ about those things.  We try to be reasonable parents, trusting parents.  We take lessons friends have learned and parents have learned and we try to apply them as best we can.  There are all types of parents out there.  I know parents that are too lax, I know parents that over-parent, I know parents that try to be somewhere in between, and I know parents that seem to have all the answers and they just seem to do it right.  However, then I learned those parents, the ones who appear to have it all together and have parenting as their superpower are just as scared and are going through just as much as the rest of us.

Maybe there’s no ‘What to Expect’ book out there for adolescence because no one really knows what to expect.  No one has mastered it well enough to write it all down.  There’s no way someone can prepare for your child to admit they’ve been a “cutter”, there’s no way to prepare for your child to make a decision to share intimate images of themselves to someone on the internet, and there’s no way to have all the right words and all the right actions for things you never thought could or would happen.  I’ve learned that as a mom I just have to admit when I don’t know what the hell to do and then I have to rally with other moms who are experiencing the same thing.

In my advice and edition of ‘What to Expect’ during adolescence, I will say this – expect everything and befriend the parents of your children’s friends.  They are your only hope to getting out of this alive….well, them and a nice big bottle glass of wine.

With every season

Sitting on my back deck, hiding from the kids whose water balloons I narrowly escape while coming into the house, I take a deep breath.  I smell neighbors grilling some delicious loveliness and my stomach growls to remind me I have to cook, but not just yet.  I take another deep breath.  It’s refreshing, even calming, the smell of rain that skipped our little neighborhood.  I can see the clouds through the tops of the trees and hear a slight rumble, and I’m thankful to see it from a distance.  I can smell the delightful tea olive trees that are just behind our fence, such a sweet fragrance that reminds me of my grandmother.

I close my eyes and I listen.  I hear neighbors talking, but I’m not paying attention to their words.  I hear dogs playing and conversing in their own right, but they aren’t too loud.  I hear giggles and squeals, and I chuckle and the sounds of water balloons breaking against the concrete.  I listen to the little carpenter bee trying to bore a hole into my porch and think I should take care of him, but I don’t and leave him at his work instead.

I lean my head back against the iron chair and open my eyes.  The blue just overhead is so rich and welcoming.  The white that I see reminds me of cotton balls and childhood.  The trees are so green, so vibrant and alive as they slightly sway in the warm breeze.  I catch sight of two birds dancing overhead, dipping and swirling to their own music.  As I scan the backyard I watch butterflies rushing and flittering through the bushes next to the vivid orange tiger lilies.  I’ve watched the lilies grow and now they finally bloom.  It’s at that point, when I’m so in love with their bloom, I realize they are a reminder that it’s closer to the time when summer will end taking with it the beautiful outdoor familiarity only experienced during its season.

 

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Sibling Lessons

It was Mother’s Day weekend 2006 and, as usual, we were broke.  Three kids tend to need things that take whatever small amount of savings you were hoping to keep.  It’s the name of the job, really.

After much budget finagling, The Husband was able to score a cabin in the north GA Mountains at a place that was home to a beautiful waterfall.  I had never been to the mountains, never seen a waterfall up close and personal, and never stayed in a bona-fide cabin.  The cabin came with no television, no radio, no entertainment but the nature of the land and the family who accompanied the trip.  The Eldest, 8 years old at the time, was none too pleased to go a weekend without his trusty SpongeBob fix.  After a plethora of reassurance that he would love it by the time we left, he sucked the pouty lip back in and decided to give it a try (what other choice did he have, really?)

We took to the paved trails and read signs about the nature before us.  We read how the paved trails were made of recycled tires.  We read all about the trees of the area.  Finally, we reach the bridge to admire the remarkable waterfall.  The bridge was about half way up this little section of mountain and the view was quite nice.  Naturally, I wanted a picture with my three little bundles to cherish our time together for years to come.  The Eldest went bouncing down the bridge while, sturdy as it was, my feet were a little less enthusiastic to frolic.  He ran down and back a few times before remembering his siblings and took to help me coax them onto the bridge for the picture.  The Middle took her precious time testing each board like Indiana Jones would though her bridge had no missing or rotted boards.  She made it nearly half way before she would go no farther without a trusting hand.  The Little, however, would have no part of this little venture.  He was fine just where he stood, thank you very much.

No amount of bubblegum or candy promises made him budge.  He was pretty firm for a 3 year old.  Just when The Husband and I were about to give up on the picture and just take snapshots of what we could, The Middle lent her helping hand.  It took only a few words of encouragement and an outstretched little hand to persuade him and, just as she had done, he tested each board until he was just next to the falls.  Soon he let her hand drop and turned with pure joy as he made it to the middle of the bridge.  That day not only did The Little and The Middle find trust in each other that would never really die, even now 8 years later, but The Little found the courage he would embrace everyday moving forward.

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“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”
~Edmund Hillary

Location, Location, Location

I’ve heard it’s all about ‘Location’.  What ‘it’ is and where that ‘location’ is, well that’s a secret unknown to me.  I’ve never claimed to have all the answers, or even how to find them.  I have, however, discovered recently that taking a bubble bath is quite a thought provoking adventure that leads to questions and sometimes answers.  It’s like all those popping bubbles whisper things, or maybe it’s just the wine.  I digress.

We recently moved…again…for the 3rd time in 17 or so years.  See, we were the stable parents living in the same place for years and then WHAM we’re pretending we’re gypsies with no firm roots to any one place.  That’s not true.  We really aren’t pretending.  I never claimed to be a great parent, either.  What’s with all this rambling today???  As I was trying to say…we moved.  It’s been an adjustment for us all, but much more positive than I thought it was going to be.

Maybe that, too, is a lie.  Maybe it’s not so positive that I’m deliriously giddy about the fact my kids are all scraped up.  Again, no claims on great parenting.  But they are in this condition because for the first time in their lives they are outside on bikes riding around with other kids more than they are inside watching TV or playing electronics.  It’s like they’re real kids.  Real kids who ride bikes.  Real kids who come in sweaty and gross from a day of play.  Real kids who laugh and fall down a lot.  Real kids who learned to ride a bike when they were little and haven’t been back on them at length again until now so they keep flailing around like little drunk bicyclers.  It’s pretty fucking awesome.

The lesson today kids is that Location really is everything.  The only trick is you just gotta find yours.  Hey! Didn’t I say I don’t have all the answers?