Friday, September 28, 2012

...and then I was banned from the sidelines.

We all say it. We’ve all read the articles in the New York Times. We’ve all heard about the books and listened to the psychologists on talk shows. We know we have to let kids lose, we have to let kids fail, we have to let kids be kids and make mistakes. Not every kid should get a trophy for showing up, right? They’ve gotta earn 'em. That’s the new message to parents. And, for the most part, we say we believe it. We say failure makes our kids strong! Let them fail a test. Let them be the kid who scores for the other team during a soccer game. It’s okay! we claim. It’s life! we tell each other.

Yeah, right.

Because you know the feeling.

Let me take you back to last weekend.

I’m on the sidelines of a Little League baseball game.

Jack steps up to bat. Bases are loaded, two outs. His big brown eyes stare at the metal pitching arm. Opposing coaches implore the fielders to “get ready” or “play at any plate, just get the out!” Jack earnestly knocks the ground with his bat, purely for show, and then adjusts his position until his coach or his dad gives him a thumbs-up: knees bent, elbows up, feet straight.

The first mechanical pitch – a real beauty – sails right over home plate without even a wild swing to deter it.

The second draws a futile swing that’s so hard the batter spins around in a circle.

The third is knocked off as a foul.

Ten Little Leaguers jump up and down screaming, "You can do it!" and, randomly, "Make us proud, Jack!"

My husband sits back, relaxed. Jack’s sister is playing soccer in the outfield with other kids. No one is really feeling any tension.

Except me.

I’m a complete wreck.

I’m in the throes of a panic attack, praying frantically that he just makes contact with the ball.

I want the damn kids to shut up and stop distracting him.

I’m thinking that he HAS to get a hit, HAS to knock in a run.

"Come on, Jack," I silently implore, "You’ve been to the batting cages! You knock the hell out of them in practice. It’s a GAME, buddy, don’t screw it up!"

The coach manning the pitching machine signals Jack to adjust his stance.

"Don't be the kid who can't get a hit!!" I think.

Jack wiggles his feet in the dirt.

"Be the hero! Hit a home run!"

The coach counts down.

I can't believe how painstakingly painful this is for me.

Three. Two. One.

"He's not going to do it. He looks too relaxed."

The pitch is coming.

"HIT IT, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!" I scream. Maybe in my head, but judging from the look my husband gives me, maybe a little bit out loud.

He makes contact. It’s sort of an unintentional bunt.

But it counts.

"Runrunrunrunrunrunrun!" I bellow like a lunatic, "Beat the throw!"

A run scores. Jack is safe on first, his little alien-head batting helmet (his personal one, because you know I’m a little freaky about lice) beaming almost as brightly as his smile.

I cheer. I clap. I whoop and yell.

I collapse into my beach chair.

As my heart rate lowers, I wipe a little sweat off my forehead and try to act nonchalant.

Whit is staring at me.

"Uh, you know," I comment offhandedly, "That was good and all, but it would’ve built character if he’d have struck out."

"Right." He turns back to the game. "You are completely crazy," he mutters.

He looks at me over his shoulder. "And Jul?"

"I know," I reply, hanging my head. "That was just the first inning."

Sigh. "I'll go watch from the car."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And then I became THAT mother

If you know me, you know certain things about me. Like the fact that I’m not usually late. I’m not usually disorganized. I usually have all my ducks in a row. My hair is usually brushed.


Not today.

Last night I didn’t sleep. I don’t know why, but I fell asleep around 5:30 this morning. And the power had gone out briefly overnight so whenever I did open my eyes to check the clock it was always some blinking number that looked like I had time for ten...more...minutes...zzzz...

I sat up with a start at 7:40. The exact time Caroline and I were supposed to be at Girls on the Run; she in a running capacity and me in a coaching capacity.

I flew down the stairs and saw her sitting on the couch, in her pajamas, watching TV.


"Um, 7:40?"

"'Um. 7:40??' Yes, 7:40. 7:40 when you’re supposed to be at school. Get dressed. Come on come on come on!"

Speed in the morning isn’t her thing. So while I flew around the kitchen gulping sips of coffee, she stretched. While I hastily threw breakfast on a plate, she stopped to pet the guinea pig. When I tossed anything I could find in her lunchbox...she complained.

"That’s a messy sandwich and that’s not the snack I want."

"Where’s my good water bottle?"

"Did you do the laundry?"

"These strawberries taste funky."

Let’s just say I lost my patience with Her Highness. Let’s just say maybe I raised my voice. Let’s just say she got upset and couldn’t find the shirt she wanted to wear and couldn’t find her safety patrol belt and then it was 8:00 and then I said we just wouldn’t go to Girls on the Run because I was late and she was irresponsible and then she started to cry. So then I felt bad but was still irritated and didn’t want to let the other coaches down so we went to Girls on the Run really late and both feeling crummy.

Then, as I was walking out, in the rain, my friend pointed to an enclosed area of the playground and said, "Oh, look, someone left their backpack. Let’s bring it into the office."

We walked over and I noticed it was the same color as Jack’s backpack. It had the same shark on the outside. And whoa, it even had his same initials!

Well, shit. Because it had been there all weekend. In the rain. So the library books were wet. The papers were wet. The lunchbox smelled.

Seriously? I am that mother who doesn’t notice that her son doesn’t bring home his backpack? I’m that mother who didn’t notice I wasn’t emptying his lunch box? I am that mother who didn’t – gulp – check his progress report on Friday? Or Saturday? Or Sunday? Or, thanks to the holiday, even MONDAY?? I am that mother whose son is so laid back it didn’t occur to him his backpack was missing? I’m sorry, but did the OCD gene your sister and I share just skip right on over you? Or Jack, how about last night, when I told you guys to pack your backpacks for school today and you quickly and confidently said, "Did it!" Did it? How’d you do it IF YOUR BACKPACK WAS ON THE PLAYGROUND???

Whew. So there I was. Flustered. Sweaty. Not caffeinated. Carrying a dripping backpack with soggy contents into his second-grade classroom. I was mad. I was a mess. I was in running clothes with no makeup on and I was a little frantic. And his teacher is someone you’d hate if you didn’t love her because she’s gorgeous and wears gorgeous clothes and never yells and has nice teeth and nice hair and would never, ever not notice a missing backpack for four days. She’s so perfect she just smiled and said, "Oh, I understand, we’ll just dry everything out!" in a cheery voice and I wanted to run away crying and press a big, fat, redo button on my morning.

Yup. That was my morning. I am, officially, That Mother.

Now don’t you feel good about how put together YOU were this morning??

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Tapeworm Mom

I am not a Let Go parent. I am a Hold On Tight parent.

Helicopter parents? "Rookies!" I scoff.

I am more like a Tick parent. A Leech parent. An Internal Parasite parent.

Not because I am a psycho controlling nutcase, for which the case could certainly be made. Rather, it’s because of love. It’s because of an aching love for my children that makes the mama bear in me wrap her arms tightly around precious little bodies so no harm or distress will ever come to them. You know, it’s the kind of love that suffocates children and renders them void of any life skills. Or so I’ve heard.

I’ve read enough parenting books to know that I must become a Let Go parent. I have a little big girl going into middle school next year, and they aren’t going to let me sit in class with her, even if I beg. (Or make them cookies. I asked.) So I told myself that it was time to wear the Responsible Mommy undies and become a Let Go parent so my daughter can grow up unhindered.

The first test came immediately. My (sniff) 5th grade (sniff) safety patrol daughter sailed off to school on her bike in a gaggle of yellow-belted friends. (And, for the record, I didn’t get in the car five minutes later to make sure her bike was parked safely at school. But I thought about it.)

I went in her room and noticed the book next to her bed. Here’s what went on in my mind:

Me 1: Oh, shoot, Caroline forgot her book. She might get in trouble. I’ll bring it to her.

Me 2: Drop the book, sister. She forgot it, she gets in trouble, she won’t forget it again.

Me 1: I’ll just scoot down to where she’s patrolling and stick it in her backpack.

Me 2: Or she could actually suffer a consequence.

Me 1: No way! If she doesn’t have it, maybe her day will be awful. Maybe she’ll get mad at herself. Maybe she’ll call herself stupid and forgetful and she’ll be awash in self-esteem issues before she even hits puberty.

Me 2: Or maybe she’ll borrow a book from the teacher.

Me 1: Shut up.

Me 2: Drop the book.

Me 1: Sigh. Fine.

The next test came after school.

She had asked a friend if she wanted to play. The friend said she was busy and then turned around and asked a third friend if she wanted to play, right in front of Caroline. She was sad. My mind games began:

Me 1: What a bitch.

Me 2: So Caroline finds out not everyone wants to play with her all the time. That’s life.

Me 1: Let’s egg her house.

Me 2: I’m sorry, but are YOU in fifth grade? Kids need to learn to work things out.

Me 1: Can we at least crank call her?

Me 2: ...or we can just listen and offer support.

Me 1: Leave me alone.

Me 2: Just give her a hug and change the subject.

(Me 2 is such a pain in the ass. But even Me 1 knows Me 2 is right.)

So there you go. I am well on my way to becoming a Let Go parent.

For the record, it’s not going to be easy. I look at this poised ten-and-a-half year old and I see my little three-year-old girl with blonde pigtails and big blue eyes telling me to hold "callerpittars" for her. I kiss her cheek and I think of the five-year-old who needed butterfly kisses, eskimo kisses and mommy kisses before she’d go to sleep. It really feels as though yesterday involved cribs and high chairs and gliders; diapers and Goodnight Moon.

I’m going to hold on to any little girl parts I can find. I’ll read to her when she asks; she can sit on my lap and hold my hand and help me bake. I’ll scratch her back and keep Band Aids and snacks in my purse. I’ll indulge the little girl in her until it is finally and totally edged out by a big girl.

But. But I’ll delight in the big girl stuff, too. I’ll delight in how she finally gets my jokes and tells funny ones of her own. I’ll be proud of the strong athlete who can score soccer goals and run a 5K and win an ice-skating trophy. I’ll celebrate the big kid who makes good choices and watches out for her little brother. I’ll cheer her on as she leaves elementary school behind, even though I could swear she just started kindergarten.

I’ll love every part of her fiercely, even as I’m letting go reluctantly.

And every now and then, when I’m sure she’s got the independence thing under control, I’ll give Me 2 the finger and let Me 1 win.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

And then life kicked my optimism in the ass.

I like to run, but I’m very rarely satisfied with where I am in my running because I’m pretty tough on myself. I’ll set strict time goals for ten mile races. I’ll set distance goals for Saturday runs. I recently ran eight miles after a v.e.r.y. late night because I figured I knew I wanted to run eight miles for days before and no, my friends weren’t actually pouring the wine down my throat and keeping me awake, so I had to suck it up and run the eight miles. I'm not a marathon runner, but I'm a bitch of a self-coach and never pat myself on the back.

This past weekend, I did something I’ve never done before. Something that intimidated the heck out of me. Something I didn’t really tell anyone I was going to try. Something I swore I couldn’t do, didn’t want to do, would never do.

I ran a half marathon.

I ran it with a friend. We ran through the woods and crossed streams on cute wooden bridges and couldn’t run more than two people across because it was just a little path through the woods. I loved it.

As I was running, I started remarking on how pretty the run was. Started talking about streams and bridges and trees.

Then, by about mile eight, I started to realize I felt great. I looked at my watch, and we were running at a pretty decent clip. I was doing it! The miles were flying by!

I confess, I started to get a little cocky. Little pleased with myself. Started thinking that maybe I could run half marathons. Started to feel like maybe I wasn’t just a ten-mile-max runner. Just started the mental motions of patting myself on the back.

Big mistake.

Because I got close to the finish line and wanted to get there. Wanted to drink water, see Whit and Jack and Caroline, and, frankly, I kind of just wanted to sit down. I kind of just wanted to stop running.

So I sprinted as fast as I could.

Should’ve stayed humble ‘til after I crossed the finish line.

Because, see, I had gotten water right at mile 11 or 12. And then I ran as fast as I could, through the chute lined with moms and dads and kids and dogs and friends cheering madly for the runners. I sprinted, my heart raced. I could barely breathe. I had the fleeting thought that I should've skipped that water station.

And then my stomach started convulsing.

And I started barfing.

And maybe, just maybe, I wet my pants a little bit.

In front of all those moms and dads and kids and dogs and friends.

Then I got home and realized my Body Glide had failed me and I had a raw, red ring of open flesh around my rib cage, right where the band of my sports bra had been rubbing off my skin for 13.1 miles.

Then I realized the old, comfortable shoes that had felt so good for 13.1 miles had destroyed my knees and hips and I was walking like an arthritic amputee.

Then I realized I was a little dehydrated from running 13.1 miles and couldn’t take enough ibuprofen or drink enough water to kill my headache.

Then I burned my hand by grabbing a pan I’d had in a 450 degree oven. (This injury has nothing to do with the race but it sucked.)

So my little pat-yourself-on-the-back, give-yourself-a-little-handshake moment of feeling like I had conquered a new frontier?

It’s over.

Now I'm in the throes of a wrap-your-ribcage-in-nonstick-gauze moment. A change-the-bandage-on-your-second-degree-burn moment. An if-I-can-make-it-up-the-stairs moment. A google-how-much-ibuprofen-will-kill-you moment.

I miss my happy place.

I miss mile eight.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The bright lights of fame are blinding…my dog?

I just got the mail and opened a letter from Workman Publishing Co. with interest. After all, I do aspire to be a writer. "Perhaps," the thought skittered optimistically across my mind, "this contains an unsolicited yet lucrative book deal!" (Only catch is that I haven’t actually written a book. But whatever. Weirder things have happened.)

"Dear Whit and Julie Kennon," the letter read,

"Congratulations! We are very happy to inform you that your dog, Bo, has won a spot in the 2013..."

...wait for it...

..."Bad Dog Picture-A-Day Wall Calendar." Better yet, he’s also Mr. March 18 in the Bad Dog Page-A-Day Calendar.

Oh, crap! Apparently at some point I sent this company a picture of Bo. Of all the bad things Bo has done in 13 years, I can’t even imagine which one I chose to send. The one where he’s eating a poopy diaper or road-kill rabbit? Or running away from me with a raw steak in his mouth? Or finding chickens in the bushes or blowing his doggy camp interview? Or chewing something expensive? Or breaking the guinea pig out of her cage so he can chase her around and cause G.P. P.T.S.D. (A.S.A.P.)? Or breaking into my then-pregnant neighbor’s house and making her chase him as he only stopped to drink out of toilets? The possibilities are endless.

And I, truly, do not know. I have no recollection of which picture I could have sent, or when I sent it. I do know something about it sounds vaguely familiar so I’m sure it’s not some cruel attempt by a disgruntled neighbor trying to point out that my dog can be a little deviant.

My husband, who is rarely surprised by anything I do, just shook his head and said, "My dog is the most famous member of my family. This is pathetic."

No way it’s not. Everyone!!! Go buy the 2013 Bad Dog Picture-A-Day Wall calendar or the Page-A-Day Wall Calendar. I’ll get Bo to give you an authentic paw print on the page for March 18. And, not to be pessimistic, but I’d hurry if you want that paw print. In people years he’s a nonagenarian (sad for me and my dog, but a great Scrabble word).

Oh, Bo. You’ve got game, my little canine friend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Oh, summer. I’ll miss you, you crazy season.

I get weirdly attached to things. I remember a watermelon barrette I loved and lost when I was nine. I remember and miss every detail of my childhood home, though I haven't lived in it in nearly 30 years. I can think back to favorite 80’s Benetton sweaters that didn’t get tossed until my friends did a fashion the 90’s.

Unfortunately, I got very attached to this past summer. This is odd, in that every living mother with elementary school-aged children usually wants summer to end a solid two weeks before it does.

Not me. Not this year. I wanted more flashlight tag, more watermelon, more beach/bay/mountain trips, more picnics, more relaxation. More time not worrying a bit about what time it was. More time with my kids. More time as a family.

I’m sad it’s over. So I think I’ll try a little reverse psychology to snap myself out of it.

Ah-hem. Here is a heartfelt list of things I WON’T miss about summer. Not one bit.

1. Living in a bathing suit, and sucking in my stomach all the time. I sucked it in until it almost touched my spine. I did that so religiously that one would expect me to have sculpted abs from the inside out. But I don’t.

2. The inertia that overcomes children if they’re still in their pajamas at 9 am. So it’s noon and they’re saying, "What are we having for breakfast?"

3. The expectation that there will be a big breakfast every day of the week. And thus, an abundance of bacon. And sausage. I’m tired of eating things that oinked.

4. Being forced to get in the pool. Remembering everyone pees in the pool. Watching my kids fill their mouths with pee pool water and spit it at me.

5. The constant OCD that is sunscreen application. And reapplication. And touch ups. And the maternal defensive panic that arises when another mother comments on your child and says, with a superior grimace, "Oooh, he’s getting so red! Look at those shoulders!" Yeah, well, bite me. That’s why God created aloe.

6. Constant sweat. Constant wondering if there’s a stronger deodorant I should buy. Constant wondering if someone close to me is stinky enough to actually be hitting puberty.

7. Bright sunlight at 9:00 pm. Convincing children it is, actually, night and they should go to bed. Stealthily applying superglue to their eyelids. (Kidding. But I considered it.)

8. Running errands with children, because I could be in a funeral home looking at caskets and they will still find something they want me to buy for them.

9. The perils of water. Chlorine that turns eyes red and hair green. Waves that knock you down and leave sand all the way inside your ears. Jellyfish. Gross blobs on the beach you can’t identify but need to step over.

10. Trying to in vain to accomplish everything on the kids' list of "Things We Will Do This Summer." I’m goal-oriented, and it still annoys me that we didn’t make it to the watermine family swimmin’ hole. I asked Whit to go with me last Wednesday and told him that if we'd just float around the lazy river once I could cross it off, but he rolled his eyes and went back to work.

So, you summer-lovin' self, see how much you won't miss? So live a little. Un-suck in your stomach.

Ahhh, that worked. It does feel good to unsuck. Bring on the foliage. And, while I'm unsucking, the caramel apples. And, hell, maybe some pizza. Hot fudge sundaes...

Oh, yeah. Me and fall are going to get along just fine.