Thursday, October 23, 2014

Whittling and Weaving

There are times when it feels like I am doing it all wrong. I wonder when the last time Gus ate a vegetable was. I hope that I reminded them to brush their teeth that morning. I am loathe to really imagine how many hours they have spent staring at one screen or another. And then I start I wonder if I ever read to them enough or if I am to blame for the fact that they complain about boredom. Maybe I didn't foster their creativity. Maybe I stunted their intellectual development. Sure, they are smart, but maybe they could have been smarter. There are times when they pick at each other and the words coming out of their precious little mouths are just a little too snappy for my taste, and they don't sound very nice, or patient, or caring.

But there are other times when they find their way to the porch in the sunlight of autumn, and they talk to each other with kindness as one whittles and one weaves. They plan Christmas presents for their aunts and uncles. They encourage each other and let out little giggles, all of which I can hear from the open kitchen window.

Those are the times I like.

For any mother of a boy who has a hard time finding hobbies, I highly recoomend whittling. Gus likes his crafts to have an air of danger. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Brink of Things

My little girl is in so many ways still a little girl. She spends hours playing with her dolls. She cuts up the pages of catalogs and creates collages and wish lists. She dresses like a little girl, still perfectly content in her printed jersey dresses and leggings, with no desire to wear skinny jeans or try out trends. She jumps on her daddy's back for piggy back rides, not realizing that the task is getting harder and harder for her dad, who is still mostly daddy. At night she needs tucked in, though she would prefer if someone slept right beside her.

Nothing quite prepares you for the change, watching as your little girl starts to become a woman, before either of you are ready. My desperate hope that organic milk and grass fed beef would somehow keep change at bay has not been rewarded.

As I have always done, I turn to books to help me understand. I read and re-read the pages of The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, a slightly outdated account of the changing role of girls' bodies, which I found on the dusty shelves of my high school's library. Within the pages it recounts how teaching and explaining puberty to modern girls mostly involves the discussion of personal hygiene, and I see my own approach reflected. I can explain the need for deodorant and skin care. My daughter understands science enough to know that this all makes sense. But the book argues for a more inclusive approach. It suggests that we should be talking to our daughters about their approaching role as fertile women. I look at my own shy daughter, who only a few short months ago blushed at a candy commercial that featured a naked M & M. How do I talk to her about all the things I think that maybe I am supposed to talk to her about?

Ever since my children could ask, I told them the truth about bodies and biology. When they asked where babies came from, I told them. And I told them how they got there too. I'm not saying it was the right way, but it was my way. I  didn't want to lie, and  didn't want to have postpone an awkward conversation until my children were awkward preteens. It seemed easier to put it on the table and keep it on the table. But the awkward preteen is sitting at the table now making tickets for another talent show, little hand drawn giblets that litter her wake, and she might know the facts, but there are plenty of other things she doesn't know.  I'm looking at my little girl, and I don't quite know what to tell her or what to ask her.

And so I revert to my old standby, click purchase, and wait for Judy Blume to come and do the talking, hoping that maybe Are You There God, It's Me, Margret, might answer some questions she didn't even know she had.
This was written and posted with Sena's permission. 
I figure she's getting old enough that I should seek her approval before I share. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It Won't Be Long

It won't be long until I can't pick a single activity to please them all. It won't be long until I'm dragging surly teens to family fun events. It won't be long until their worlds divide and likely won't re-converge for many years.

But for now, there are ways of making them all happy. There are places we can go and things we can do that we all can agree on. We can go to a fall festival and Gus can jump on an air pad, while Sena cuddles bunnies, and Arlo pretends to drive a tractor. And I can search out each of their distinct little faces and spot smiles. And we can come home on an autumn afternoon feeling like we conquered the day, together.

Monday, October 20, 2014

This Weekend We / Bonfire Season

Even as a young mom, I loved going to bars. I liked making random friends for the evening, the older and more grizzled the better. I liked talking to strangers and putting quarters into juke boxes and dancing to mediocre cover bands. Tom and I would take turns going out. I never resented the nights I was home alone with Sena and Gus because I knew it meant that my turn was next.

When it recently occurred to me how long it had been since I danced so hard that my legs were sore the next day, I was sad. At first I was sad because it'll be quite some time till I can even pretend to entertain that possibility. And then I became sad because I realized that maybe I don't want to go do that as much as I think I do.

During my still going out days, I remember other mothers saying they didn't do that sort of thing since they became moms, and I was mad at them for blaming their children for their lack of spunk. I'm still mad that they blame their kids. Chances are it wasn't motherhood as much as age.

I don't particularly want to stay up that late anymore. I would rather spend my free hours surrounded by people I love. My Friday nights don't need to end in a big tab and minor hang over. I am happy to spend them around a bonfire with an equal mix of friends and family, with a dozen kids wrecking havoc and toasting marshmallows. It feels like a damn fine way to spend a Friday.

And if the next morning follows with donuts, bacon, and coffee, how could the weekend go wrong? It makes it a lot easier to not get too jealous when your best friend texts you to say she had the best old man chat over at one of the world's most perfect dive bars

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Backyard

I don't live in the country. We have neighbors, some of whom we annoy, sometimes enough that they call the police on us. And sometimes I just wish we could move away to a place without neighbors, without people complaining to us that our children's games kept them awake ay 9:30 on a Saturday night.

But if you look out our back door, you could believe for a moment that we lived somewhere rural, somewhere far enough away that the banjo riffs wouldn't be heard by anyone other than the people sitting around the campfire.

We live on the edge of town. We see foxes and deer and hear owls, even if I have yet to actually see one. We have a redheaded woodpecker and plenty of squirrels. There's enough nature that it feels like my kids are getting their dose at our fingertips. So they build makeshift weapons out of sticks and string, and they hide among shrubs and dig in the dirt, sometimes taking a nibble too ,well, Arlo does that at least.