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Archive for the ‘parenthood’ Category

Next week, we have two important milestones – my oldest graduates from high school and my youngest two graduate from 8th grade. These milestones have created for me a tumult of memory.

I remember vividly putting my son on the bus for the first time. He was happy and proud and excited and puzzled at my tears. I did not plan to cry. But the tears flowed none-the-less. I remember when my girls “graduated” from Montessori. I most certainly did not plan for tears, but the tears came none-the-less.

I was shocked at the quiet that came when I put all three of my children on the bus for the first time. And that’s when I realized for the first time, nearly 10 years after becoming a mother, that motherhood is so much about letting go….

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First day of school for the girls… could they be any cuter, these three?!

Next week also marks the umpteenth anniversary of my mother’s death – she has been dead for more years than she was alive. Her time here was finite and short; the time without her has been infinitely long and grows longer with every passing year. She saw none of her children graduate from anything – not grammar school, not high school, not college.

I am the oldest girl in a family of three girls and my mother had been dead a year when I graduated from 8th grade. After my mother’s death, we had hired a housekeeper – today, she’d be known as our nanny. Her children lived with us during the summer. It was a chaotic time, but what I loved about that first housekeeper was that she expanded our family with her family just as ours shrank incredibly. My mother’s side of the family endured significant losses in the next few years – both of her parents died two years after my mother; her sister, my beloved Auntie Ronnie, died eight years later, also of cancer (like my mother). Ronnie, like my mother, left three small children behind. My adolescence was a time of chaos and loss and grief and discovery.

Our housekeeper had heard stories of how my mother had made my baptism and first communion gowns. She volunteered, for whatever reason, to make my graduation dress. I thought it was pretty.

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8th grade graduation – clearly I had entered “the awkward phase” of adolescence…

During the ceremony, a classmate leaned over and suggested that the sleeves were ripped. They weren’t ripped – they were loose as per the pattern. I was annoyed and embarrassed. I don’t know what possessed this classmate to point out a perceived flaw of my dress during the ceremony. But my middle school experience was full awkward moments so it’s no surprise that the ending of it contained one was well.

And next week, I witness all three of my children celebrate these milestones. My son is very much done with high school. My girls are so ready for high school. And I’m not ready to let go yet.

But let go, I must. It’s all part of the job.

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…And it will make them happy?

Before answering that question, let me set the stage. My girls are at the beach with their 15 year old cousin. They’re having a fabulous time, until Lindsey cuts her foot somehow. Unlike most people, Lindsey has somehow figured out how to cut her foot on the top of a toe, not on the bottom of her foot. (My children have always shown immense creativity when it comes to injuries!)

Blood, water and sand made for a dramatic wound. The amount of blood left Lindsey in hysterics. My niece had her hands full, then she noticed Nora was on the verge of wailing herself. So my niece suggested that Nora head over to the nearby playground, to play, catch her breath, calm down, so that the lifeguard and my niece could tend to Lindsey.

Nora ran off for all of one minute. Then she raced back to her sister. “Lindsey!” she shouted. “Look – I have an inchworm to make you feel better!”

And it did.

So when faced with hysterics, find yourself an inchworm. It’s just the thing for calming down hysterical little girls. At least in my world, it is!

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To be frank, I thought the idea of the “montessori graduation” to be a bit overwrought. Caps and gowns. Pomp and circumstance.

For people who were six years old.

I thought the woman in front of me was a tad overdramatic when she started tearing up before the ceremony started. A teacher darted in with a kleenex. It was all a bit sloppy.

Then the music started. Pomp and circumstance played by the music director, who is also our neighbor. The children walked down the aisle of the little church above the classrooms, dressed in their bright green caps and gowns.

And the tears started to flow! My tears! Cynical me, crying at the pomp and circumstance surrounding the montessori graduation.

What a shock!

Then I saw my girls.

And I was in awe.

They looked so big in their graduation gowns. They looked so beautiful. Their smiles were spectacular.

And thus the tears flowed some more.

“Mooooooooommmmm!” said my son. He was embarrassed by his mother’s tears, as boys usually are by such things. But not surprised at all. He knows me all too well.

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For those not in the know, lacrosse is a barbaric sport. Sure there is padding to protect the arm and shoulder from whacks. Yes, there is a helmet to protect the head.

But it is a sport that involves a small, hard ball and sticks. And to be successful, there is a whole lot of whacking going on with those sticks.

It is not a game for the faint of heart.

To parent a child who plays lacrosse is also not for the faint of heart. At least that’s what I learned during the last game of the winter season.

It had been a fairly miserable season, for the most part. Filled with losses by many points. But on this, the last game of the indoor season, our team had played exceptionally well. At half-time, the score was 2 – 7, but by the end of the game, our team had tied the score, 8 – 8.

However, there are no ties in junior lacrosse.

So the ref called for the Braveheart. (You will not find college lacrosse players involved in a Braveheart; this is a play only found in junior lacrosse, apparently.)

In the Braveheart play, four boys take the field – two from each team, a goalie and an offensive player. First team that scores, wins.

On this, the last game of the season, I saw my son trot to the center line, the designated offensive player for our team. Apparently, he’d volunteered for this role. He was up against a fifth grader, a boy who was a year older, a year bigger than my son.

I was worried. Very worried. We’d seen this play just once before, last year, and it was exceptionally stressful to watch. And at that game, my son was not on the field.

Now he was the sole offensive player, THE boy who needed to score if his team was to win.

The ref dropped the ball. The fifth grader hustled and pushed and it looked grim for a minute. But my son did not give up. He pushed back. He fought for the ball.

And he came up with the ball. And he swiftly ran toward the goal. Crowd was screaming. I was screaming. He lined up the shot.

And missed.

The goalie ran out of the goal cage, got the ball, tossed it to his teammate.

My son hustled, but could not catch up. The boy threw the ball at our goalie.

And scored.

We lost.

And I realized why the Braveheart was given that name: if you lose, you feel as eviscerated as Mel Gibson’s character at the end of Braveheart, the award-winning bio pic about Scotsman William Wallace.

My son was devastated. Crushed. Feeling like he’d failed, that he’d let his team down.

He held it together until we got to the car, and then the tears came. So I said the only thing a mother could possible say in this situation.

“I’m so very proud that you volunteered for that exceptionally challenging play.”

And I was proud. I was proud that when a difficult moment came for the team, my son put himself into consideration. I was proud that he did not hide from the challenge. I was proud that the coach felt he was capable enough to be put into the Braveheart play. I was proud that he out-hustled the older boy at the face off.

For all those reasons, I was proud. But still, watching my boy lose was painful to watch.

We engage in sports for fun, for the physical activity, to pursue something we enjoy. But sometimes, we learn lessons that can be painful. We learn that showing up doesn’t guarantee a medal. We learn that even when we hustle to the point of exhaustion, the opponent can still out-hustle us.

We learn what it means to lose.

Losing sucks.

But in life, losing is inevitable. You simply cannot win every game every time.

What I want my son to know is that losing means defeat only if we decide to give up as a result of the loss. Losing should inspire us to work harder to achieve our goals and experience success. Losing us should force us to take stock of what we really and truly want out of our life, how we really want to expend our energy.

Spring lacrosse started this week. My son is out there on the field, working hard to improve his game. I know that as a parent of an athlete, there are more Braveheart moments in my future. I know that all I want is to experience the same kind of pride I felt when I watched my son during the final moments of the last game of the winter season.

I was proud because he worked hard and gave it his all. That made him a winner in the eyes of his mother.

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My girls had their very first school concert the other day. They’ve been seeing their brother’s concerts for years now and thus were THRILLED to be standing on stage the gym floor, belting out some tunes.

This year, the theme was kind of like a sock hop. Poodle skirts were worn by those girls whose mothers had lots of time to acquire/make them. My girls wore the other costume – jeans and white shirt.

Sigh.

However, my twinges of guilt over not supplying the poodle skirt vanished with the first note of the concert. I love watching school shows! I love them more than just about any other kind of entertainment. School concerts are filled with top performers and wiggly children and shy people who would rather be anywhere else than singing in public in front of a large audience of parents. (I had fallen in the latter category as a child – my heart goes out to the children who hate to perform!)

Three classes were represented at this show – 2nd graders, 5th graders and the kindergarteners. They placed the kindergartners next to the fifth graders. It was fascinating to see the growth we can expect in the next 5 years. The older girls were so tall and poised and beautiful. The kindergartners were so small and tiny.

In the kindergarten group, one girl in particular was not enjoying the show. She cried; she held her arms out beseeching her mother to rescue her. And well into the first song, the mother obliged, and the little girl was whisked away.

The little girl next to the shy child decided that she really didn’t want to participate either. She didn’t cry; she didn’t wait for her mother to rescue her; she just casually walked off the risers, done with the show.

That left the boy on the end standing alone. And when the kindergarteners all sang “Stand by Me,” and placed their arms around their neighbor, this boy had no neighbor to embrace.

So he stood there, singing passionately, and stretched his arm out, pretending to embrace the neighbors who’d fled.

A hilarious moment in a night full of emotion.

My girls were nervous prior to the show. I could tell. But they rose to the occasion. They sang. They did the dance moves. They embraced their neighbor when it was time to do so.

But in my mind, the night belonged to the little boy who didn’t let the absence of a neighbor inhibit him from performing as directed. He stood; he sang; he embraced the air; he was completely engaged in the show.

And the first school concert for my girls was a concert that was wonderful to watch.

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Ronald Howes, Sr., the inventor of the Easy Bake Oven, died just the other day. He was 83 years old.

Truth be told, I’ve cursed out that inventor on occasion. I don’t find much that is easy about the Easy Bake Oven. I never had one growing up – for whatever reason, our family bucked the easy baking trend that Mr. Howes had foisted upon America back in the early 1960s – a trend that has lasted for more than 40 years.

But this Christmas, the Easy Bake Oven had gleamed brightly as an object of desire for my girls; it was one of the few things on their wish list (alongside a dream catcher and candy necklace); the sale price at Target prior to Christmas made it an imperative purchase.

So even though my girls are five-years-old (a tad young for unsupervised baking) “Santa” felt compelled to bring them an Easy-Bake Oven to share. Thus, we became one of the 20 million families that can claim ownership of an Easy Bake Oven.

The first hint of trouble came when we opened the box on Christmas day, a day that has been set aside for family and celebration, not for shopping. On this day, we discovered that the oven did not come with a heat source – i.e. no lightbulb included.

Channeling Gertrude Stein
Now there are philosophers that will say that a lightbulb is a lightbulb is a lightbulb, but when the lightbulb for the Easy Bake Oven is missing and the oven won’t work without it, then the lightbulb is an issue.

In our case, the missing lightbulb was an issue we skirted until December 26th, when two hopeful little girls REALLY wanted to bake a cake. So “Santa” went out and got some bulbs for the oven and the easy baking commenced.

A Darkening Mood
Only it was not so easy. The mixes seemed dry and crumbly. One mix, the S’Mores packet, required the baker to pat out graham cracker squares to put into the round cake pan. I didn’t understand this concept – patting out square items to place in the Easy Bake Oven’s very round pan.

But we made S’More squares out of that dry, crumbly batter. And we shoved those little pans into the Easy Bake Oven, one pan at a time. And we attempted to commence the baking process.

Instructions said you had to make sure to place the pan in such a way that the oven doors were closed. But lacking a window to look into the oven, I discovered it was difficult to tell exactly where the pan needed to be to get maximum exposure to the lightbulb. So we shoved the pan and peered in through the sides only to realize we’d shoved the damn pan right out the other side.

So we had to pull out the pan and try it all over again. Frankly, it was an irritating process and I wanted very much to move on with my day. However, two little girls eager to eat some Easy Baked goods made it impossible for me to quit the Easy Bake process.

None of this seemed easy to me. The process was so challenging that I began to wonder how the hell this product had lasted for 40 years on the market. How could something so irritating be so enduring?

An Enduring Legacy
I started asking around. And what I found was remarkable. All the women I knew who had an Easy Bake Oven as a child loved it. They LOVED it.

That’s what my girls were telling me as we baked. They loved it. They really really loved it. And I realized that even though there was nothing easy about the Easy Bake Oven, it was something little girls loved doing. And thus, though I loathe the process, I know there will be many Easy Bake Oven activities in my future.

And I have Ronald Howes, Sr. to thank for that. He’s a man who gave millions of little girls a toy they loved to play with. And that is truly a wonderful legacy – to create a toy that brings happiness and the promise of something sweet to the children who play with it. So even though I’m not a true fan, I will be using Ronald Howes’s invention to create memories with my girls that will endure long after our Easy-Bake Oven experiences come to an end.

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Just have to say, watching my son watch Justin Timberlake dance in a leotard with Beyonce is one of the very funniest experiences I’ve had on this earth.

You can see the clip here. (Ignore weird Georgian music at intro and outro…)

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