I sent S. back to school in January
the same day I ordered E's cap and gown
for high school graduation
The beginning of the end
to the first year of middle school
the beginning of the end
to the last year of high school
E's spring orchestra concert
that was cancelled twice
once for COVID
once for an ice storm
Is that the last time we'll watch him perform?
End of the year contemplation starts in April
Calendars don't go in order around here
The beginning of the end of another school year
Did I do everything that needed to be done?
Is there anything I'm still missing?
Releasing E into the world, even though
he'll still be home for a while
the distance he's created to hang out
with friends one last time brings
the beginning of the end to his dependence
S. turns 12 in June
The beginning of the end of 'tweenhood
We baked a cake on Sunday
at her request for us to spend time together
She cut the last slice in half for us to share
The beginning of endings continue
Time! Stay still for a little while. Well, you did last spring, or so it seemed. I’m the one who needs to stand still. I’m the one who needs to slow down. I’m the one who needs to stretch out moments I have, to enjoy them, be present. It’s not your job to stand still. That’s on me. And I haven’t been doing it well. Ever.
For today, the plan is baking a cake with S. From scratch. Red velvet with cream cheese icing, her favorite. Laundry can wait until tomorrow, but baking a cake can’t. Social media doesn’t care if I show up. Neither does my messy bedroom.
Time, I apologize for fussing at you. For saying you aren’t enough. You don’t change. While we’re here, can you tell me why we humans think we need to slay the day? As if it’s something that needs slaughtering. Why can’t we just enjoy it? Like a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing.
You are enough. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not doing enough. I rarely do enough. I’m doing too much.
“So?” Of course, it’s so because she’s eleven and we’re constantly cat-fighting like good mothers and daughters do when they’re both raging with hormones.
“Okay, I’ll play.”
“Truth or dare?”
“Tell the truth. Would you ever choose a dare?”
With an eye roll she couldn’t see, “Well, maybe. I’m not the adventurous type. But I’m also here at home, playing with you so it depends on who’s playing. And I’m not in middle school either so it’s not going to feel the same.”
“Truth or dare?”
“I dare you to give Dad a hug.”
“A hug? That’s the dare? You want me to give Dad a hug?”
“You chose the dare so now you have to do it!”
I walk over to my husband who is assembling his chalupa and give him a side hug. One of those we’ve been married for years let’s not drop our dinner plates hugs.
“There, done. Why did you choose that? It’s not a very daring dare.”
“I don’t see you hug each other. I just want to make sure.”
As a kid, I loved all kinds of toys. Etch-a-Sketch, Fisher Price Little People with the school house, a cow you could milk, a crawling doll that my great aunt broke soon after I opened it on Christmas morning, Play-Doh, Lite-Brite, the Easy Bake Oven I never received, and countless others. With my own kids, I hit the jackpot. I could buy toys again. E was four when I bought (his, my, our?) first LEGO set about fourteen years ago, a 3-in-1 race car. We assembled it together and he played with it for days on end. Later I found a SpongeBob set on clearance, perfect for his fifth birthday. It was a complex set designed for older kids.
One day, we worked on the Boating School set. He threw fits because he couldn’t figure out some of the steps. I threw fits because he didn’t want my help. I wanted to help because, you know, it’s a toy. I didn’t have any growing up. They were expensive (they still are on the pricey side). And they are so cool! Of course, I couldn’t say that out loud. Didn’t want to be the adult fighting with her kid over a toy. With tension reaching tantrum proportion, on his end at least, I put the set away for another time.
Five months later and groggy with pregnancy fatigue, I needed something for him to do the week of spring break. I retrieved the set again and reminded him about how to handle frustration. I didn’t help much this time. I needed sleep. The kid spent the day working with that set. I helped with a few sections, but he built it. We both became fans.
As E continued requesting different sets for every birthday and holiday, he figured out all kinds of building tricks. He learned about various sets, names of each brick type, printing techniques, when certain pieces began going in and out of production, the company’s history, and value. They do go up in value. He also taught himself how to make stop-motion LEGO videos when he was in fourth grade.
Harry Potter sets were around before he could crawl and I saw them as I walked through toy aisles, but I didn’t consider buying them. Once he got old enough, I’d of course try to sway him to choose those sets. It didn’t take much swaying. E swayed me to get him as many sets as possible.
It didn’t occur to me to get my own until I saw the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sets with new eyes. Several years ago, I made my first for me purchase. We made a trip to the LEGO store and I found a Wonder Woman key chain. I couldn’t leave her there. E accused me of becoming an AFOL, Adult Fan of LEGO. For one of my birthdays, he chose my gift: LEGO Harry Potter Quidditch Match.
My small collection consists of LEGO Star Wars Episode VIII Chewbacca, Harry Potter minifigures, LEGO Brickheadz Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and Hedwig, Charles Dickens Tribute Set (yes, it’s the book with a scene on top, squee!), and LEGO Ideas Central Perk. It took me an afternoon with several cups of coffee to build Central Perk. If you like putting puzzles together, LEGO is similarly satisfying.
At 18 years of age he’s still a fan, an official AFOL. He has spent Christmas mornings over the years seated at the kitchen table, clear empty bags strewn all around him, instruction book open, box to one side, and a play-by-play, or rather build-by-build commentary as each section gets completed. He has completed homework with a little help of his (LEGO) friends. I still find pieces on the floor at times, but they’re contained in his room. For graduation, he has requested a LEGO set.
Thanks, LEGO. This is one way we’ve been able to connect, a common bond we’ve built, brick by brick.
My oldest graduates high school on May 26th. His high school hosted a drive through Countdown to Graduation this evening. With everything being cancelled this year, parents are working on ways to creatively celebrate a full pandemic senior year. I held my composure and didn’t say much. The first stop along the route in front of the school was a senior yard sign. Then a goodie bag. Followed by a senior t-shirt, topped with a cupcake. It didn’t hit me until today. I’m mourning the busy-ness and frenetic planning of a Mom of a Senior while he mourns the “loss” of a typical senior year. I know we’re not alone and there are others going through so much worse, but it still stings.
“Not too bad. As long as there’s food, it’s worth it.” He chomps the cupcake in two bites.
Are you there Judy? It’s me, Ally. And I read your popular book about the girl who talked to God. It helped me because my mom wasn’t the type who talked about what to expect in my changing body. Nana certainly didn’t help either. I got bad information from friends and embarrassing information from films at school. How I imagined a perfect puberty through your book didn’t quite happen the way you described. Hell, even Meggie from The Thorn Birds (Mom’s favorite mini-series) got advice from Father de Bricassart.
Me? Nothing. No one helped me. I had to figure stuff out on my own and this one, one of the most concrete and visible manifestations of puberty was all mine to figure out. As I muddled my way through, learning the ins and outs, I helped my two younger sisters. They didn’t read your book, but they had me to help as much as an older sister would help.
It hit again, on a much larger scale. This, with the advent of technology where information was at my fingertips, but way before the blogosphere was a thing, I became a mother. Round two, here we go again. There were books I didn’t have time to read, A Baby Story on TLC (or was it Discovery?) was the closest thing I had to pregnancy, childbirth, and the fourth trimester. My lamaze class helped a little, but it was NOTHING like going through it.
No one warned me my pre-pregnancy clothes would. Not. Fit. At. All. No one said I’d rip, or there would be stitches. Or adult diapers. No one mentioned having to take a squirt bottle full of warm water to every bathroom visit only to wish U.S. toilets were equipped with bidets. No one mentioned nursing was a whole new level of hell (shoutout to the mammas that make it work), how my body felt like mush, and how I felt that I floated outside of my body in a zombified daze for three weeks.
There were no mommy IRL Instagram accounts, no FB support groups, and my mom wasn’t up to speed on new child rearing trends like nursing in public, co-sleeping, and putting babies to sleep on their backs only because they can freakin’ die if they sleep on their stomachs. Which is exactly the only way my son would sleep. Period. Because he came out hollering at me and he rarely slept. When he did sleep, I panicked because I thought he was dead. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was the stupidest first time mom advice I ever received.
After my daughter was born, it was a little easier because I knew what to expect and immediately decided nursing wasn’t a good fit for my personality. Dehydrated DH3 enriched powdered cow’s milk all the way, baby! This kid slept. On her stomach, because to hell with those motherhood trends. Do what works.
We parent our kids the best we can. There are milestones, family trips, and birthdays.
The 40th one.
Hey, Judy, I’m in ‘tweenhood again. How did Margaret handle puberty 2.0, the sequel, the second part? I know about menopause, but there’s this ‘tween stage to prep the body for it and it’s called perimenopause. God forbid women be strong enough to hit it head-on. Weight gain that does. Not. Come. Off. No matter how little you eat or how hard you exercise, it won’t budge. The kids sleep now, too much, but insomnia is the wicked little step-sibling that likes to wail at 3:00 a.m. Smothering it with a pillow doesn’t work. After those films in middle school, the teachers nonchalantly told us we’d outgrow the acne. They lied. Popping a puberty zit isn’t the same as trying to deal with that nasty hormonal stress acne that likes to hang out on my jawline.
Judy, you didn’t warn me about this one. Did Margaret stop talking to God?
Day 1 of Spring Outbreak 2020 and The Hubster worked from home. He evicted Sophia from her bedroom, which she rarely uses other than for throwing her clean laundry on the floor and housing her private library of books, stuffed animals, and abandoned craft projects.
“Why can’t you use Ethan’s room?” she retorts.
“Ethan’s room is a hoarder’s room; there’s no space!” True. LEGO are strewn all over the place, pieces in all phases of LEGO project life: spares, in progress, and completed builds. His book cases are full of books, LEGO, empty QT cups, towers of empty cereal bowls he eats from at midnight, and yes, laundry on the floor. But it’s dirty. His three roommates consist of a keyboard, a cello, and a guitar, leaving little room for visitors. Not that we want to visit.
We don’t have a desk in our bedroom. We bought our home without a dining room, spare bedroom, or home office. Out Sophia went.
Boredom begets creativity. I have plenty to keep me busy. Sophia on the other hand, after watching too much Disney Plus, charged her dad for use of her bedroom.
We’re tight on space to offer Sophia Suites to non-family members, but for those of you having to work from home, maybe a trip to the QT for a cherry lime Freezoni is enough compensation for kids you may have to evict from their, ahem-your, spaces. I’m ready to try it as a beverage mixer.