Cheering it Forward

Today I got to pick Mitchel up right after school. It’s the first time in awhile I have gotten to ride with just him, since he has had football practice at the same time as his older brother David for the last three months. So I was actually looking forward to my twenty minutes of time in the car with him. Boys are sometimes hard to pin down in conversation. Unless they are trapped in the car with you. Even then it depends on the day and the mood and whether or not you happen to be super annoying to them. 

Naturally I was late. 

I actually blame Maria. This morning at 10 am she  texted me a picture of a Starbucks snowman cookie and peppermint mocha and said “the holidays have officially begun”. Those yummy, sugary, buttery snowmen cookies are the BOMB and my mouth actually started to water. I texted back “I’m SO going to reward myself with one tomorrow AND a Chestnut Praline LatteeDatee.” 

Yum. 

But when I was late to pick up Mitchel and thought to myself, since I was already late, I might as well make it worth being late and have a yummy Snowman cookie and a steaming hot chocolate waiting for him. HELLO! Mom points. 

PLUS I would also then avoid all the snarky pushy parents blocking traffic because they think their kid is the prince of England and therefore should not have to walk half a block where the PROPER line forms. 

Anyway. I pulled into the Starbucks that I go to quite a bit. It’s in a weird spot and their drive through is really complicated and I ALWAYS seem to get it wrong and try to enter through the exit only.  Every. Single. Time. I honestly think it’s some kind of emotional block where I second guess myself. Today was no different and I found myself sort of wedged and was trying to turn my car around to face the correct way in order to hit the drive through going the right direction when this grumpy old man in a beat up old pick up truck turned into the parking lot at full speed and just glared at me because I wasn’t moving fast enough even though I was CLEARLY trying to hurry. I couldn’t let him go ahead because I was blocking the little parking lot. So I hurried faster: scooch back, scooch forward, three times (waving and smiling and panicked) until I finally was able to pull into the drive through. 

In front of him. 

AND of course there was a super happy chatty person in front of me in line,  which was fine with me but NOT fine with the man behind me who was giving me the meanest, grinch glare and nudging his truck closer and closer to my bumper as though it would speed things up. 

When it was finally my turn to order I naturally took my time and chatted with the cute barista guy while waiting for my snowman cookies and drinks for me and Mitchel. But I also paid for the grinch’s Grande Caramel Fattachino. And that made my cute barista guy so happy and even MORE chatty that he gave me TWO free reusable holiday cups instead of just one, like I was apparently supposed to get but didn’t even KNOW about! And that just made me so unexpectedly happy that I tipped him a couple MORE dollars and chatted some more. I mean two pretty, reusable holiday cups AND snowman cookies? It just doesn’t get any better than that! At least during that moment in time. 

Until the grinch honked and broke our happy fest. 

The cute barista guy just laughed. “Whatya gonna do? Yeah?” 

I laughed and FINALLY (to the grinch’s grumpy pleasure) drove off, now even MORE late than I had planned giggling to myself about killing ‘em with kindness and paying it backwards or forwards or whatever it is, so as to confuse the grumpy universe with cheer. 

And THEN I pulled in to glorious almost empty parking area with no bitchy parent drivers and prince Mitchel only had to walk about twenty steps and was greeted by holiday cheer and actually chatted with me for ten of the twenty minutes of our drive! 

So this is why it was Maria’s fault I was late. But SHE is also responsible for cheering it forward so I’m pretty sure the world is a better place than it was before I was late. 

I’m Not Their Real Mother

The three youngers (not to be confused with the three olders who were each at their various jobs-so-they-can-afford-to-buy-me-stuff-some-day) paraded into my room this morning carrying their Mother’s Day tribute: a rose, a carnation, a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups and a Mother’s Day poem written by Mitchel, the youngest of the youngers, about what a great mom I am and why. I informed them that I loved it ALL and immediately popped a peanut butter cup into my mouth and sent Mitchel to get some food coloring to put in the water to see if we could turn the greenish white carnation a different color for an experiment. When he returned with purple food coloring that was already all over his fingers before he’d even started to put drops in the water, I told him I especially liked the part in the poem that said R is for “Really good at handling all 6 kids”. I  said I would keep it forever. Because while I’m disappointed in the fact that M is for “Magical No! Best Mom, Yess!!!!” (Clearly he doesn’t realize I have magical powers: how else would one handle all six kids?) he made up for it with the second line O is for “Other moms are good, but not as good as you”.

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Hello! Winning!  Sorry all you other moms. There can only be ONE “best mom”. GOOD is just going to have to do for the rest of you!

I thought about sharing the Reese’s but then quickly thought again and tucked the rest of the bag away in my underwear drawer where it would be safe from thievery. I’m just not a sharer especially when it comes to my favorite candy.

Mitchel wanted to know if I saved everything they gave me. “Even the flowers?”

Remembering what happened when I tried to save a dead grasshopper Duncan once gave me in the same container as his preschool art work, I said “No, I learned the hard way years ago to stop saving anything that used to be alive. I don’t want all those great letters and pictures you guys made to get mold on them; it’s important to keep them in tact for when your real mom comes back.”

All three of the boys snickered a little bit at that and then each gave me a hug and scampered off to do various youngers activities, tribute over and done with. Which is fine. Tribute makes me feel slightly uncomfortable and extremely guilty. Their real mother, the one I invented when I was young, energetic and optimistic, left years ago. I’m just the stand-in who’s doing an adequate (at best) job of mothering. Selfish peanut butter cup hoarding is just one very small example of many. I could fill a book my good people. So though I joke about being the best mom ever, I am fully aware that there is just no sense pretending that I’m even trying for a GOOD rating.

I is who I is.

Kids, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry but I don’t think your real mom is coming home anytime soon. I’ve TRIED to find her but her last known number has been disconnected and I don’t have the cash for a private detective. She clearly doesn’t want to be found anyway so why waste any more effort? It’s probably time to face the fact that you are stuck with me as the stand in. So let’s save the tribute for Father’s Day where it has been earned and is deserved.

You olders probably remember your real mom and all of her fantastic mommying: all those healthy breakfasts, clean clothes, notes in your lunch boxes, lipstick kisses on the day-care window, homemade clever Halloween costumes etc. I could go on and on but quite frankly doing so would probably make us all a little bit bummed out. Her sole purpose in life was to make your lives rich and fun and full of love so that you all would go out into the world as good, kind, nurtured people who would spread love and peace into the world. You know: that ‘make good ripples’ line?  Please don’t tell the younger ones too much about their real mom.. They are just going to feel ripped off. Plus it creates so much pressure for me to try and fill her shoes. My feet are way too big for those cute little sandals she used to wear because they, along with the rest of my body have grown quite wide over the years. Practical footwear is where I am at now.

Along with practical mothering. Which involves as little effort as possible on my end.

So, That being said, here are some ideas for Mother’s Day cards that my kids SHOULD give me:

*****

Front of Card

Mom: Well mom, you tried.

Inside

You did TRY, right?

*****

Front of Card

Mom: At least you’re not as weird as grandma

Inside

Mostly.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: thanks for making me do all that stuff by myself, you know, like cleaning my room, doing my own laundry, getting out the band-aids all on my own for my bloody skinned knees so that I wouldn’t get blood all over the carpet and get killed by you.

Inside

Lazy meanie.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: A is for Affort

Inside

Too bad you didn’t help me study for my spelling when I was young. I could have ben someone.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: I’m sure you’ll finish STRONG!

Inside

Hopefully you won’t die before it’s too late.

*****

Front of Card

Mom: remember all those times you were there for me?

Inside

No wait, that was dad.

*****

Ha ha!!! I suppose that may be a little harsh. I’m not THAT bad of a mother. And quite frankly my kids are turning out really fantastic despite the fact that I have not lived up to my own ridiculous and over the top expectations of what a “good mom” is. So who’s to say that if their real mom had stayed longer that she would have any more right than me to take credit for how awesome they are.

 

 

A Certain Kind of Silence

When I was in the sixth grade, our teacher Mr. Lee played the song “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel for the class and asked us to write an essay about what the lyrics meant to us. Mr. Lee was my very first male teacher and I adored him. I think it’s because he was the first man in my life who wasn’t related to me to spark the possibility in my mind that I might actually be interesting. His eyes would light up when he was listening to what I had to say, coaxing out what was inside me with genuine delight: words, thoughts, dreams, worries. I imagine he had this affect on many kids. I wasn’t the only shy child who had shit to say but needed a little encouragement to speak it out loud.

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So, it stands to reason that I would want to impress Mr. Lee in all my twelve year old brilliance by getting into the heads of two legendary singer-songwriters and nailing my essay. Instead my head became so full of the desire for approval that I became paralyzed and could not generate a single thought. To this day, it haunts me, my inability back then to express what the lyrics meant to me. I have tried for years to remember if I wrote ANYTHING down on paper. I don’t think I did and the entire class discussion is a blank. I was so worried about being wrong and disappointing Mr. Lee that the whole point of the exercise was lost on me, which looking back was wonderful irony, considering the lyrics.

When the fantastic remake of the song performed by David Draiman of Disturbed went viral (it’s playing now, on repeat as I write this post) it made me realize I have unfinished business from the sixth grade that needs tending to.

Now, honestly, I’m still not completely sure how S&G wanted their lyrics to be interpreted and I don’t know that I really care. The question that Mr. Lee asked us is “what do the words mean to YOU?” Art in any form, by its very nature gives us full permission to engage on a personal level and connect ourselves in any way we choose. This is the beauty of art and also perhaps the difficulty, at least from the perspective of the artist. The interpretation is individually subjective and can be as different as night and day from one person to the next. So much depends on the baggage being attached to the art.

The song to me speaks about the painful ramifications of a certain kind of silence. What held me back from saying back then what I felt about the word ‘silence’? I had a teacher who was ready and eager to hear what I had to say. Why didn’t I speak up? Why was I afraid back then to tell about how a certain type of silence could hurt as bad as a slap in the face?  

I’m not talking about the kind of silence that happened when I was alone, either up in the arms of the chestnut tree or hanging out in the sanctuary of my bedroom. I was a pretty content kid and to this day feel the most peaceful and at ease when I am flying in silent solo.

I’m talking about the type of silence that turns your blood cold when you are in it’s midst. Walking unsuspectingly into a frigid wall of silence from someone you love without any understanding as to why. My mom was queen of the iron curtain and could go for weeks without a word to me when she was angry. Sometimes I was just an innocent victim of her internal rage at someone else, often my dad. Other times it was something I had done to receive her ostracism, though rarely did I find out exactly what I had done wrong. She would just one day be done with her silent treatment and move on as though nothing had happened. I was always so relieved when the silence ended. It felt dark and loveless.

Now, I do not mean to imply that my mom did this all the time. She was a caring, generous and creative soul who loved people so deeply that I think sometimes it physically hurt her. I like to believe that she doled out the silent treatment because it was to her better than what she wanted to do which was scream horrible obscenities at my sister and I.  I for sure was no princess. And I KNOW from experiencing motherhood six fold that children can be terrible little assholes from time to time.

Admittedly, I have tried a few times in my life to use the silent treatment with my kids. There HAVE been times that I have been so angry that silence seemed like a solution that would keep me from causing greater harm. But I can never seem to be silent longer than the time it takes to simply cool down.  Because shunning people this way feels as horrible to me as it does to be the one shunned. It is also seems completely useless. I am by nature someone who needs to speak, express, yell, listen, hear and then resolve things. You can not resolve anything with silence. In fact, conflict grows bigger and more powerful the longer silence holds it prisoner. “Silence like a cancer grows.”

To this day I can not handle that kind of silence from people. It tears me apart. And while I will probably continue to love certain people in my life who use their silence as a weapon, or maybe more fairly, as a shield, it for sure creates thick boundaries in the relationship that don’t need to be there. The lyrics “hear my words that I might teach you, take my arms that I might reach you, but my words, like silent raindrops fell” make me remember those desperate mental pleas: “Talk to me! Yell at me if you must! But please don’t ignore me!”  Because the indifferent silence is so loud in my mind that it is unbearable: booms of thunder that resonate exhausting questions timed with a heavy beating heart “Why won’t you speak to me? Why won’t you hear me? What have I DONE that you won’t love me right now?”

And so my dearly adored Mr. Lee, while I’m sure that there is so much more to the song than how a certain kind of silence can hurt like a motherfucker,  I bet you wouldn’t be in any way disappointed that the vision you planted in my brain no longer remains silent.

Mom-Goddess: She’s the Chick to Be

I am driving my 14 year old son Daniel to his weights and conditioning class. He is still sleepy. I can tell because his forehead is wrinkled from trying to keep his eyes open. I am pretty sure he has anxiety over starting high school this fall. And also worries about freshman football: “will I be good…will I get hurt…am I going to get bigger…” All that stuff. But Daniel is one of my more reserved boys and isn’t going to say much about his worries to me.

Unlike his older sister whose every thought pretty much comes out her mouth.

She gets that from me. I don’t think all females are like this. God help us if that were true.

Which explains why words spill out my lips before I consider who my passenger is when I see these two fine looking smiling men holding political signs representing some person trying to get elected. I do not even register the position or the name of the candidate because I am busy waving and smiling at these model material males and saying in my sexiest voice “Oh I’m SO gonna vote for YOU and OH MY…YOU as well”.

I myself am now VERY wide awake on this morning and turn to my passenger expecting a high five and an ‘OH HELLS YEAH’ but then I remember that this is not my daughter but one of my five sons. Dan’s lips are flat lined and there is now an extra wrinkle in his forehead. One of his eyebrows is pointedly raised like it always is when he is mildly annoyed at how ridiculous something is.

Wow. Whoops.

Now. A good mother would have probably just stopped talking right then and there.

And so I say “Gosh. I wish I could just go into some kind of magical place for two weeks and have them take off a few layers of fat and transplant it to starving baby orphan whales and then at the same time slough off all my unbecoming rough skin and moles and marks and then maybe get a nice subtle spray tan. They’d probably first have to clip off some extra skin on account of the fat layers being gone. It takes a LOT of skin to cover all of THIS and saggy skin is NOT cool. I wonder if all of that would hurt? Maybe they could just knock me out for the whole two weeks. That way I could get some rest too. It would also be cool to get my eyelashes dyed and eyeliner tattoos. Because makeup just bites and I am finally realizing that I actually need to put it ON to look ok. Sucks. And maybe perhaps a little teeth whitening. Oh and my FEET: gawd my feet need help. And I’m while not really pro-cosmetic surgery (save for having layers of fat removed because I just don’t feel like exercising these days) it would be cool to know I had cheekbones under these robust cheeks. It just seems like a person should be able to get all of that done in two weeks. Really I can’t spare two weeks but if I could guarantee they would do ALL of that, well, I’d make time.”

Daniel turns and looks at me and I realize he was actually listening because I was using my outside voice.

Shit and whoops again.

“But then you would not look like you” he says to me.

And I suddenly wish I could just crawl inside this boy’s head and view what I look like from his perspective. This handsome young man of mine needs me to look like me and no one else.

Hmm.

I remember looking at my own mother as a young girl (before teen magazines, M-TV, commercials and other forms of media that destroy the “I am enough” mentality) and thinking she was so beautiful. And she was! I did not compare her to anyone else in terms of size, shape, hair/skin/eye color. She was just my mom: perfectly beautiful and designed to love me.

Is this the magic of being a mother? That when you are you from top to bottom you are pretty much perfect from every angle in the eyes of your child, simply because you look, feel, sound and smell like “my mom who loves me”?

How is it that I am just now realizing how f’ing fabulous this is?

Since the birth of my sixth born and last child, I have often found myself fighting the label of “mother of six”. I’m not sure why because it’s a pretty awesome thing to be a mother of six children. Being the mother of one to seventeen kids is awesome, but after that, well…you’re kinda stupid. I mean where the hell are you going to PUT eighteen or more kids?

It’s just that when I am introduced to people: “this is Heather, she has SIX KIDS (insert dramatic pause here)” as though I have some kind of crazy super power, I find myself being a little irked and often end up mentally elaborating about all my other attributes and accomplishments, mostly show-offy stuff, like: “Oh and also I finally got my dog to swim: I’m pretty much a dog whisperer” or “You should hear me sing in the bathtub: I totally rock the house down” or “Yes, and I look totally HOT in my bathing suit cover up.”  I mean if I am going to be labeled as a crazy super power chick, I feel like I should at least add more reasons why to the resume.

Because, seriously? Giving birth to six babies wasn’t exactly all my doing. I had support from my husband, nurses, doctors and in one instance about twenty medical students filling the room all examining and tisking (I’m sure in total AWE) at my child bearing nether regions, as though there wasn’t an actual person attached. Oh and there were drugs. Wonderful drugs. So for heaven’s sake. Hello. No gold medal for this gal.

Same goes for growing them up. There is even more help once they are in the world. If I forget to feed them, usually SOMEONE in the village will. Thank goodness. And in terms of guidance, yes I am part of their moral cabinet, but so are their teachers, friends, and siblings (and other less ruthless family members). So I really can’t take much credit for a whole lot of their good stuff (or their bad stuff).

So I think “Well surely I need to do, be and look like MORE for the world. To make my mark, to build my world resume, to achieve greatness outside being a mother.” Which is what often gets me to musing out loud about transplanting my jiggly fat to baby orphan whales. And while it’s a loving and environmentally friendly thought to help the baby orphan whales, it’s just not very practical.

And here’s the thing: as I grow older and maybe moderately more mentally mature (note awesome alliteration) I am slowly starting to realize that all this striving for excellence outside of who I am and who I love kind of falls flat and unnecessary.

My kids just want me to be me. And they mostly think I’m awesome, which is a hell of a lot better than the rest of the world’s opinion. They don’t want me to be some other mother, or sexy movie star, or triathlete, or high paying upper level executive. (Other moms: if you happen to BE any or all of those things, I mean no insult, you are knocking it out of the park! Bravo!  But damn girl: slow down and eat some CAKE!)

I don’t know what a mom-goddess LOOKS like but she is FOR SURE the chick to be. Because it feels wicked good to BE one: like a soft, squooshie, warm ball of beautifully loved-love.

I bet I smell like cookies too. Though probably only because I just ate one.

For the record Daniel didn’t actually SAY I am a mom-goddess. But I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant. So that basically means I AM one.  I just am helping him fine-tune his outside words.

You’re welcome Daniel. And thank you.