Monday, September 21, 2015

Growing up in hindsight

On any given night, I’m asleep as soon as I close my book or shut off my phone, turn off the light, and my head hits the pillow. Very rarely does Aaron fall asleep before me. (He’s usually watching sports downstairs.) Last night, though, even though I felt exhausted, even though it was past midnight even though I could hear Aaron breathing beside me, I could not fall asleep. Rather than my usual list of worries: work and everything that still needs to be done by deadline, or thinking about where I am in my career, or the list of things I’d love to buy for our house (or future house), or some random conversation I had earlier in the day, I started thinking about how fast the boys are growing up. That thought hit me like a punch in the gut. I don’t usually get sentimental about the passing of time, but man, last night I felt it hard. I had one of those pangs of sadness and heartbreak you feel after a serious break-up; that ache you experience when a loved one dies. It was a sense of LOSS and the realization that your landscape is changing and you can’t do a goddamn thing about it. I didn’t like that feeling (who does, really?), and yet—at the same time—it’s a reminder of what’s important in life.
I have a sneaking suspicion that the pang was brought on by an incident earlier in the day, when Aaron and I were cleaning out our porch. To paint a visual: When you live in a small house, you tend to pile random things wherever they fit, and for us—that junk spot became the porch. The pros of having a porch filled with crap? No robber is gonna break into a house with a porch like that! Those people must be HOARDERS!  
The cons? As my dad pointed out in a totally dad-like way, “What if there was a fire? You can’t even get to the front door, and that’s one of only a few exits in this house.”  
Besides that, it was embarrassingly cluttered, our dirty little secret. So—we devoted a beautiful fall afternoon to purging. We created piles, one for “donate,” one for “throw away,” and one for “Once Upon A Child.” We were rockin’ and rollin’ (to an awesome playlist, might I add) while the kids played together really well, with minimum fighting involved. All was going splendidly. We had no plans that day or night to stress us out/keep us on a timeline, a RARE occurrence in our house, and we were getting shit accomplished. It felt good to be so productive. As I was sweeping up dirt and random Lego pieces and bottle caps and paper and those little pieces of white styrofoam that go inside beanbag chairs and spiders (sorry, Charlotte!), Aaron held up a pair of worn brown Robeez baby shoes and asked, “Should we donate these?”
Without hesitation, I responded with “No, I want them” and took them out of his hands.  
“Why? For what?” he asked.
“Those were Adam’s first shoes,” I said. “I just want to keep them.”
I didn’t want to keep them back when I had put them in the bag, but suddenly I had to hold onto them. Look how tiny his feet were! I mean, he wears a size 1 now and can tie his own shoes. When he wore these, he was crawling around, showing off his diaper butt in a pair of miniscule grey sweatpants with a puppy dog’s face on the rear.    
When he wore those shoes, the thought of him being in second grade was so hard to imagine, I didn’t spend a whole lot of energy thinking about it (I reserved my energy for just getting through the day). I mean, that was so far in the future ... I would be 40! Practically ancient! And now he’s eight. EIGHT. I can remember being eight—I remember the mean teacher who told me I was “holding my pencil all wrong” (I still hold it that way so F-YOU Miss. K!), I remember the Michael Jackson songs on the radio, I remember the games we played at my second grade birthday party, I remember my beloved white canopy bed (and the stuffed animals I threw on top of it until my parents took it down), I can remember my favorite pink and white striped leg warmers. What will Adam remember from this year? 
And then there's my baby ... he's not such a baby anymore. Ben is in kindergarten.
We have two full-time school-agers now. I remember thinking how much money we would save when we had two kids in school full-time (naively not thinking about before and after-school care costs, or summer rates, or the 7.1 bazillion fundraising events the public school asks you to support for the kids, or sports fees and lunch fees and presents for birthday parties), and wondering what it would feel like to have two kids who can tell me when something is wrong, and buckle their own carseat, wipe their own butts, and sleep through the night (all is great except for that last one, I'm still dealing with interrupted sleep, but that's another story for another time).
I felt the pang when I started worrying that maybe I’m not appreciating this stage enough, and maybe I didn’t appreciate their baby stages enough—because, those tiny little shoes!—and it’s all flying by at Mach 10 speeds, and pretty soon they won’t need me or want me the way they need and want their mama now, and I should be more present and less impatient and more understanding and less yell-y. Instead of doing the dishes, I should have gone out in the yard and sucked it up and played football with the boys, but at the same time, I kind of liked the quiet in the house, for a little while, and I kind of liked having a clean kitchen, for a little while, and they didn’t ask me to play, and it’s all such a delicate balance (says every single parent ever since the dawn of time).
They will only be 5 and 8 for a little while, I need to appreciate these ages—these beautiful, innocent, sweet, funny, smart, thoughtful, anxious, defiant, and sometimes frustrating kids—before I’m holding up stinky size 12 (Ben) or ratty size 1 (Adam) tennis shoes and wishing I could rewind time, back to the kindergartener and second graders they once were.  


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hold on, darlin'

For some reason, when I go to the grocery store without Aaron, the kids become wild. Like, calm and well-behaved one second, then complete crazed monkeys the next. It is very, very, very frustrating, not only because they KNOW that we don't act like that in the grocery store (or anywhere, really), but because it happens when I'm alone with them and it feels a little (ok, a lot) like I'm being manipulated.
It always starts out fine. We order food from the deli case, we pay for it, we bring it to the vacant area with all the tables, eat our carb-heavy meals (mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken strips for Adam; chicken strips and potato wedges for Ben; quinoa salad for me), then we pick up our mess and start shopping. I can get down one, maybe two aisles before they start goading one another. Pretty soon I'm repeatedly telling them to "STOP THAT!" or "Knock it off!" or "DO NOT (put that box of cereal in the cart, poke your brother's eye, roll a hedge apple down the aisle like a bowling ball, run away from me, etc.)"
Good times.
Last week, during one of my I've-seriously-had-it-up-to-here-how-can-I-fast-forward-through-this-stressful-shopping-trip?!?!?! moments, when I was feeling like a bad mom, when I wished I had decided to skip this trip altogether, a middle-aged woman approached me. Uh-oh, I thought. Here it comes. She's gonna lecture me. I could feel my face start to get hot before she even opened her mouth.
"I told the manager about your family," she said.
"You did?" I asked, taking an orange out of Ben's hands and placing it back in the bin.
"I told him that your family should be the soundtrack of this store," she said, cracking a smile.
"A soundtrack for birth control?" I joked.
"Oh no, a soundtrack for what HAPPY KIDS sound like. I've been following behind you for awhile and your boys are really, really happy," she said. "They're so animated and colorful and they just keep laughing. It's such a beautiful sound."
I was speechless. So NOT what I was expecting her to say. (Maybe she had heard Ben ask if I was going to buy the "white broccoli," then listen as I explained that no, Ben, that's CAULIFLOWER, who knows.)
What I do know is that woman brought me back from the edge of insanity. I wish I could thank her for her impeccable timing. No, it's not ideal when your kids misbehave or fight (what siblings don't fight when they're old enough to understand how to push the other ones' buttons?!), they can drive you crazy, but hey! At least they're loved, they're safe, and they're happy. That's gotta count for something, right? ;)