1996

March 5

Buffalo nickel

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

1996

I rummaged through the crap mess in the console of my truck and not only realized I desperately need to clean it but found a dime and on it was stamped 1996.

It was 1996, the year I graduated high school.  It should have been a time in my life of festivities and prepping for senior prom and senior skip day with my best friends while making memories of a lifetime; instead, I saw it as utterly painful.  I didn’t realize then that I was still making memories of a lifetime and that I would make a new friend to carry with me the rest of my life.  I lived in Ohio at the time because my father was transferred there during my senior year.  I met one of my very best friends there.  Both of us were dealt the horrible fate of spending our senior year away from our original high school and all our friends.  I moved from Atlanta and she from New Jersey (though originally from Alabama).  We formed an instant friendship.

We both had to leave high school boyfriends behind, obviously and neither of us was too pleased and we bonded over that quickly.  We became a quick cliché of Misery Likes Company and we kept to ourselves for the most part.  To make sure everyone knew just how miserable we were, we dressed in head to toe black on Valentine’s Day because, well, why not.  It was still the grunge era so we had a lot of black hanging around.

I graduated in May and by that time my father had been transferred again, this time to Florida though I was convinced I would be stopping and staying in Georgia.  I was eager to get back to Mr. EMT and could see no reason why I couldn’t stay on with a family member and attend college there.  1996, coincidentally was also the year the Olympics were in Atlanta so my parents rationalized that it wouldn’t be a good time for me to move back, and I should just wait a little while longer.  I didn’t realize at first that it was a ploy to try to keep me in Florida where they knew my future would probably be brighter since I would be in college.  They were smart, my parents, they knew me far better than I knew myself.

Fast forward to the end of 1996, after a few new friendships and entirely too much partying, I decided it was time to go back to Georgia.  I secretly bought a bus ticket, gave my 2-week notice at my job, and was prepared to leave my parents in almost a haste.  I knew they wouldn’t approve.  I knew they would be desperately disappointed, but I missed Mr. EMT so much that I felt I would lose him completely if I didn’t return.

My mother, being the brilliantly smart woman she is, somehow found out that I was leaving and she drove me there.  In almost complete silence.  It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.  I could feel her anxiety, I could feel her fear, and I could feel her love.  She was going to let me go, but it was going to break her heart.  She knew the struggles I would face, but I was 18 and I wouldn’t hear anything about it.

1996 was a monumental year for me, almost as much as 1997 when Mr. EMT and I welcomed The Eldest long before we were prepared to be parents and started going through the struggles my mom knew were coming.

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.

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