Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Knockin’ on Heaven’s door

Just so you know, this isn’t a funny or upbeat post, and it’s long, so you don’t have to read it. But I kind of need to write it.

Today is the sixth anniversary of my mom’s death. It still stinks. Lately I’ve been wishing Heaven had a mail service, and thinking about what I’d like to say to her if I could write her a letter. This is what I’ve got:

Dear Mom –

Hey! How’s Heaven? (I’m assuming that all your irreverent nun jokes were forgiven when they were deciding where to put you.)

We miss you down here. You wouldn’t believe the changes. For one, Dad lives in my basement. Remember how you dramatically warned he was taking you to Florida to die, and then you did really die? I bet you were so proud of yourself for finally making good on one of your threats. Smug as you may have felt, though, he got the last laugh. The basement is actually pretty nice (keep your snarky comments to yourself; I hired a decorator) and I take good care of him (and totally overlook the “Am I being fed tonight?” texts I get if his dinner is late). He does say “thank you” a lot but he still doesn’t like kids (how did he have five?) and he changes the TV channel really fast when I walk downstairs, so that kind of scares me because I just can’t imagine what he’s watching. But otherwise he’s deaf, happy and spoiled, just like he was before you died. (I first mistyped that “soiled” and I laughed out loud thinking of how that would have cracked you up. Don’t worry; he’s not incontinent. Yet.)

The kids, Mom. They’re something else. Remember how when Caroline was born you said, “Wow, Jul, she’s going to be just like you” and I took it as a compliment? Well, now I know what you meant, and I’m sorry for every smartass answer or temper tantrum or prima donna moment you suffered through with me. But I know I made you proud, and she makes me proud, so I guess if you were here you’d tell me I’ll forget about all the drama at some point. She’s still the kid who throws her arms around my neck and tells me I’m beautiful and totally gets my jokes, so it’s not all bad.

And Jack – he was just a little guy when you died, but remember how you called him, “Happy Jack?” He still has that twinkle in his eye and that captivating smile. Remember how you told Caroline that after you died, every time she saw a rainbow or a butterfly, it was you sending kisses from Heaven? Well, she’s told Jack, and the other day he was trying to catch a butterfly. I said, “Jack, what will you do if you catch it?” And he looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “Kiss it. I’ve gotta kiss Grammy back.” He’s wickedly funny and really sweet and he and Caroline love each other in a way that you wouldn't believe, especially after you lived with the five of us hellions.

I’d tell you all the juicy details about my four siblings but a) you probably already know them if you’re worth your celestial salt and b) they’d kill me, which would have me meeting you just a little too far ahead of schedule (clearly I’m implying that my general irreverence about everything will also be overlooked at the pearly gates. Fingers crossed.) But you see why I can’t. There’s nothing huge – a marriage or divorce here or there, but no one has come out of the closet or anything. In fact, the good news is that everyone has kids, and the better news is that they’re all really cute kids. They see each other all the time. I still have big family dinners with too much wine, and the craziest of your three sons still dresses up like a girl if he thinks he can get a laugh or he’s really drunk. The last family dinner was so wild that I learned how to shoot a 9 mm gun the next day, so I think I’ll keep everything under control from here on out.

I kind of keep waiting for you to haunt someone in a mean way, like you promised you would. Can I send you a list under separate cover?

I miss you, Mom. (I never get to say that word much any more.) You always made me laugh. You died too young and it just gives us way too many years to miss you. I know you weren’t ready to die. We weren’t ready for you to die. It really, really sucks that you did.

I guess there’s only one other thing I think you need to know: before you died, you worried to me that you would be forgotten. I think you actually thought it could happen.

Well, not for a minute, Mom. Not for one minute.

Love you. Always will.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The parenting strategy that worked too well

(An aside: if you called me, emailed me, texted me, messaged me on Facebook or left a comment on this blog after my last post, thank you. Thank you so, so much. Your kind words and support mattered more than you probably thought as you typed.)

(I actually think you all made me get over it.)


When I was pregnant, I would make lists of how I wanted my babies to turn out.

Then I’d go find a parenting book that told me how to raise a child that way.

But I am an overachiever, so I read a lot of books.

And have basically barfed parenting strategies on my two children.

Poor Jack doesn’t know whether to be tough or sensitive. Poor Caroline can’t figure out if grades and winning sports teams are important, and if they’re not, why I’m such a lunatic about both, while also telling her they don’t matter. I have gotten so confused about all the different strategies that my children are destined to have split personalities, simply because that’s what I model more consistently than anything else.

But. One thing was always important to me, and that was raising confident children. I think self confidence, innate, learned or faked, is one of the skills most crucial to happiness at any age.

Of course I never know if any of my parenting sinks in with either child.

Until it’s the week before Caroline's birthday.

She sent an email to my sister: “Hi, Aunt Jenn. Can you please email me any pictures you have of me?”

To my mother-in-law: “Ama, got any pictures of me?”

To me: “What’s your password on Snapfish?”

Finally, I asked what she was doing.

“Well, it’s my birthday next week.”

“Yes, honey, I know. I birthed you.”

“Okay, so, well, I know how to do slideshows in PowerPoint.”


“And I thought it would be supercool if I made a slideshow of pictures that we could maybe hook up to the big TV (because the cord we need only costs $30 at Radio Shack) and it could, like, run all week in honor of my birthday.”

“Well, Caroline, that is a cute idea. But what would the pictures be of?”


Blink. Blink.

“Well, me as a baby, then me as a toddler, then me doing all sorts of cute things and wearing cute clothes and making cute faces, and maybe all the way up until now. So everyone can sort of watch me grow up, but really fast, in honor of my birthday.”

Incredulous, I looked at Whit.

He said, sotto voce, “Hmm, little narcissistic?”

She said, “I heard you. I know that means humble.”

So. Can someone please write a parenting book called, “This is what you do when you work so hard on a parenting strategy that it backfires” or “Undoing the raising of a self-confident baby” or even just “How to teach your fourth grader the difference between synonyms and antonyms”?

Ah, forget it. I’ll take it. Girl power and all that. She’s hitting double digits (I am therefore crying in my wine) and if she enters those (gulp) preteen years thinking she’s amazing, well then, I guess there’s nothing to do but agree with her. She is amazing.

Happy almost birthday, my adorable little narcissist.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I’m not dead, I’m just irritated.

Okay, so I’ve been pretty quiet lately. (Except on Twitter, which I openly hated and now secretly love.) And, while there are multiple reasons for this silence, something happened that made it particularly hard for me to sit down and joke about my life and my kids and my parenting failures and all the other things that have made this forum so cathartic to me for the past year (yup, one year. Happy birthday to me.)

I don’t really know how to say this in the vague way I’d like to say it, so I will just say it without lots of explanation and details: a fourth-grade class at Caroline’s school was given access to my blog.

Not by me.

Not by any of their parents.

It appeared when they logged on to their home computers to do their homework.

I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I do know that my kids can sit on this very computer, where I write my blog, for an indefinite amount of time and they will never stumble on my blog. But that’s not the case for the kids who did stumble on it.

Now, I am certain none of those kids clicked and read this writing. “Mama Drama” is hardly a salacious title for a fourth grader. And I am certain that however it happened, it was inadvertent and a mistake and blah blah blah. But I don’t need my daughter’s peers reading about what it’s like to be her mom.

At the end of the day, I can’t do a darn thing about it. It was pointed out to me that my blog is public (true) and can be found by googling my name (true). It was suggested I block the user name these kids use for their homework, but despite hours of online searching, I can’t find a way to block any users, I can only allow users. And (thank you God) there are plenty of people who read this blog who I don’t know, and I can’t allow the entire universe without allowing that one username (and you, the friend who said, “Oh, I make fun of bloggers!” when I told you I had started one. You’re banned, too).

But it’s one thing for me to write a parenting blog that, by necessity, mentions my children. It’s quite another to write a parenting blog that mentions my children that is also totally appropriate for any of their peers to read.

So I’ve been stuck. I’ve had a bunch of things I’ve wanted to sit down and write (it was St. Patrick’s Day, after all, and I was itching to publish a follow up to this or this) but I’ve gotten stuck because I just don’t know who will be reading what I write. And the fact that anyone can read what I write becomes both a blessing and a curse, because I never, ever want my writing to make my children uncomfortable. (Until they’re adults and have several years of good therapy under their belts.)

I will come back to this. I like it too much. And I LOVE those of you who have asked me where it’s been. But I have to let the yucky feeling pass before I can get back to it.