Big Man is worried about what to get me for Mother's Day. I don't like plants because with them comes yet one more thing to keep alive. Books are as essential to my life as food so there is a steady supply of those. And yet I kind of get a bit nauseous when I read or hear from other mom's that all they want from Mother's Day is to be with their family.
I want to think they are lying.
I need a lot. Mostly, I want to be left alone to write and take a walk. I would then find a few girlfriends and a bottle of wine or some margaritas. My kids can show up later with homemade gifts and dessert and that, my friends, would be my idea of a lovely day.
I love my kids....I do I do....but my world doesn't revolve around them and this is why I always seem to have trouble. Because my world does revolve around them, and there are days when this pisses me off. I am needy. I want to be able to do what I want, go where I want, socialize when I want, have sex when I want, sleep in or stay up late when I want, and kids really put a wrench in all of that.
It's not popular to say these things and I can hear people already. "So why did you have kids? Quit your whining and suck it up."
I had kids because I couldn't imaging NOT having kids, and because Big Man and I came from happy families and wanted to have a piece of that. In short, we wanted to have little people to share our life with- the life that we dreamed about. But like many 20-somethings, we didn't think a whole lot about what the actual involvement of having kids meant. For so long, it was merely a romantic idea. Later, it became a quest. Finally, at long last, it became a reality. And when I gave birth, I did not hand over my life. Except that I did and there is the rub.
I am lucky beyond belief. I am lucky that despite the pain and anguish we went through to have kids, somehow my body and psyche rallied enough to produce not one but two healthy children.
I am lucky because I have a partner who is funny and kind and compassionate and smart and playful and isn't freaked out about being alone with his own kids.
I am lucky because I have parents and in-laws who love their grandchildren enough to want to be around them.
I am lucky because I can feed and clothe my kids and give them want they need and some things that they don't.
I am lucky because I know imposing limits on my children, while making them mad in the short term, will help them in the long run.
I am lucky because I know I am lucky. I take time to acknowledge this every day, but this doesn't prevent me from being human.
I experienced some brief baby nirvana when Thing 1 was born followed by some baby blues. When Thing 2 came around, it was full-on postpartum depression so his young self got the shaft. Thankfully we made up for it in copious snuggling and love-fests after the drugs kicked in. However, I must say I never felt completely given over to my kids. I always seem to want a little opening, a little something just for me in the day-to-day grind that revolves around their schedules and needs. It might just be me. Or maybe there is one other woman out there willing to fess up.
I will freely admit that I just have not inhabited the mother-world in a way that other women seem to. I am not gob-smacked on a daily basis by the glories of being a mom. I don't raise my hand with joy at chaperoning a field trip or working at a fund raiser. Some people glow with such passion and excitement and inhabit these roles as comfortably as they would their favorite sweatshirt. These women are the CEO's of mom world and I am simply working the line. I tolerate what needs to be done and secretly long for other adults to show up at the park so I can get out of monster-roaring and tickle-relays in a legitimate way. I prefer the quiet of my car rather the noise of a soccer field or fledgling orchestra concerts. None of this is to say that I don't love my kids because nothing could be farther from the truth. But being a mom and all that it entails isn't always a hat I wear comfortably.
What I'd really like from this Mother's Day is for everyone to get real about being a mom. If you love it from sun up to sun down, I am happy for you. However, if you crack, need a break, forgo making that homemade birthday cake and use bribery to get out of what seems like torture to you, I would love to hear it. I would love to know I am not the only one who hides in the shower to avoid violin screeching and Pokemon battles. I would love to hear I am in the company of other women with deep rich lives who can momentarily dream about things that have absolutely nothing to do with their kids...even if the dreaming has to occur in the bathroom.
Because in our dreaming we become more of who we are meant to be and this is exactly what we hope for our children--to be all they are meant to be. Why wouldn't we want the same for ourselves?
Most times when I write, I have an idea I am attempting to work through. But lately, there is so much swirling around in my brain that I don't even know where to start. Here are just a few things that have been on my mind:
Power struggles with kids
Frothy romance novels and their appeal
Being or not being "fine"
The marriage amendment in MN
Writing groups and workshops
It's a random list, and no one thing dominates. In the last week alone, I have ruminated on all of these things. Laundry and dish washing and car pooling provide ample time for rumination. But I want answers and I use writing to help me plod me toward some sort of truth. Lately, I only seem to have more questions making my time at the key board unsatisfying.
Today I will listen to the final group presentations in the first college public speaking class I have taught. Over half of these students still call me professor even though I have repeatedly stated that I haven't earned the title, I didn't do the work for it, etc. But Julian will get out of his chair, walk up to me before he leaves and say, "Thanks, Professor Gray" as he has done every day that we have met this semester. This time he will tell me to have a good summer because he is that sort of kid (18, yes, but still very much a kid), and I will tell him I am not a professor, smile, and say, "Thanks, Julian. You, too." And just has he has always done, he will smile back and say, "Well, you are the smartest one in the room so that is good enough for me, Professor."
And just like that, I have one more thing to add to my ever-growing list.
I looked the other way once.
There were two girls in a reading class I taught who really got to each other. No matter what I tried, they found their way to each other and it always ended up badly. After some tough negotiations, I thought the matter was settled until I received a startling visit from one of the girl's parents. Apparently all was not well, and I felt chastised and humiliated to know that one of my students felt unsafe, not cared for, and scared to be in my classroom.
How did this happen?
There are no good excuses to offer up. I failed, but I was lucky because a knowing parent did not give up.
A few days ago, my son was called a wimp by someone he considers a friend. He was hurt and mad so we talked about it. The other kid's parents talked to both of the boys about it and we were lucky to be able to handle it right then and there out in the open. This was an ideal situation if name calling is ever ideal, but this is where it starts.
One day later I listened to one of my college students tell harrowing tales of bullies in a persuasive speech meant to encourage us to be observant and active in our awareness of how kids from elementary school to college treat each other. "Believe me," he said, "I am gay. I know."
Two days later my sister-in-law shared that a neighboring 14 year old boy took his own life because he felt bullied after telling people he was gay. Reports indicated that the signs of bullying were there. Teachers and friends and his own parents felt concern but no one understood the depths of his despair.
How many lives will it take?
There is no magic number. We can't wait for the next life to be the one that wakes us up. I just think we have to do the hard work. I think we have to own up to the fact that we are failing and go for it with the same gusto bullies seem to have.
Second graders in Winona, MN are taught to say, "I don't like what you are doing and I want you to stop." It's direct and simple. They are then taught to find a big person if the bullying continues.
But we big people can't be the weak link in this chain. We can't take anything for granted. We can't assume, hope for the best, pray, and worst of all, let kids be kids. Kids have pure hearts and open minds and they learn what they are taught.
So this begs the question that we must be willing to ask: what are we really teaching them?