Parenting is hard

It’s St. Patrick’s day. In 1984, my oldest child was born. I remember checking into the hospital and the nurse saying I would be having a  St. Patrick’s day baby and in honor of that, they would be tattooing a shamrock on the baby’s butt. Whether my serious expression was primarily fear of this whole birthing process or I was so tired I looked as if I were taking her seriously, she quickly assured me she was only joking.

B was probably 6 before she realized that the St. Patrick’s day parade we took her to each year was not actually held in honor of her birthday.

It’s 21 years this month since she left us, and I miss her still.

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3/17/2017 – B, Jan-1985; about 10 months.

And her final school picture, taken not long before she passed away.

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B – Jan-1996; not quite 12 yet.

March is a challenge every year. Not a day in the last 21 years passes that I do not think about her, and I would not have it any other way. Mostly I smile. Occasionally, I tear up and feel the weight of loss. Mostly, though, I really do smile. So much life and memories packed into 12 years and 5 days. In my heart I cherish all she was to those who knew her and turn away any and all thoughts of what might have been. Our time together was limited. I am glad to be someone who was present with my children, so my regrets about that time are so tiny and insignificant relatively to the balance of my life.

But parenting young adults is still hard.

C called early this morning after a major fight with her husband. Unfortunately this is not the heartbreak drama of teenage angst, but the seriousness of a grown-up married people. Trying to be fair and balanced – out the window. My kid is crying, having a panic attack over the telephone. Forget fair and balanced. A said cruel things and there is blood in my eyes.

Okay, not quite that bad.

Being her mother’s daughter, I cringe at some of C’s decisions and mannerisms that come directly from me. I know that when this kind of dust-up happens, it’s not just because A came home and decided to be a prick that day. Having been in Florida only a few months, there are a billion details that one takes for granted growing and becoming an adult in your own hometown. Finding doctors and dentists and making new friends – it is a process. And when shit hits, the gap between what you had before you moved crossed the country becomes the grand canyon.

I talked her down off the ledge, called and checked in on her more than I have in 20 years, since that first summer that she and her brother stayed home alone while M and I were both working. By the end of the day, she’d calmed down and made significant progress finding healthcare providers and making appropriate appointments … in a few weeks. But she found stop-gap help with a local clinic – a referral from an assistant manager at their apartment complex. And with a little guidance from me, began the outline of The Plan for what she would do if this type of thing should come up again.

As for me, it was a busy day at work with a lot of gratuitous meetings that did little other than frustrate me with stranger’s ability to demonstrate their cluelessness. I am a master at compartmentalizing, though, and chugged along and got through it. By the end of the day, though, I was unrepentantly swigging sugary soda.

Parenting is hard sometimes, something no one really stresses before you take on that role, and I am honest enough, selfish enough, to say I do not really love the responsibility and the job itself. But I love the kids involved, all of them, and my hopes for them hinge on their overall happiness. Even when things are not going so well and they do stupid shit that frustrates and/or irritates me, I have to believe they will learn from the experiences.

Another St. Patrick’s day, another of B’s birthdays in the history books.

I miss her.

 

 

Walking away a winner

Today was a bit of a rarity: M came to the office to (1) see the new office in our moved-in state and while still in it’s bright and shiny newness, and (2) bring me some soup and crackers to try and settle a troubled tummy. The upset stomach started in the middle of the night last night, making me late for the gym this morning and question whether to take a morning off or try and see what happened. However, since I was 99.99% sure whatever was is giving me grief is food consumed related, I went ahead with practice completely confident I was not contagious. Practice went fine – no abs for me today – and for the most part the day has progressed pretty well. Glad I chose to pursue my List of the day, because I was fine while on the gym floor and completely absorbed and felt fine.

The partners here are rabid runners and love, Love, LOVE talking running with M. They love hearing the stories of his ultra days, even though they are all marathoners right now and running on Sunday in the California International Marathon, so it was fun for them to hang out with M for 2 hours and talking running. A few of our newer associates had not met him before, and when one of them innocently asked why he no longer competes, they got to hear the story of how he won the big race and walked away a winner to finally find himself a wife, and a non-running wife at that. We will be at CIM on Sunday, because a bunch of our friends are competing, my son’s training group is competing, and it’s just seems to be what we do every year.

After M left, one of the newer associates was still perplexed as to how he could retire at the top of his game. Being as he is not that far away from the competitive nature of law school and now immersed as a staff attorney, which in and of itself means a lot of long hours, the pyramid to “the top” in his vision is likely exceedingly tall and steep. M’s training life was not all that different; if he wasn’t working he was running in the mountains or resting. There was no time for much of a social life, and I would have dumped his ass for sheer neglect had we met when he was racing. So I understand running was his priority and focus in those years and once he reached the goal he had set for himself, he retired from competition.

But it of course got me thinking about life and how we handle the day-to-day business of living our lives once we triumph over something we have been chasing. What happens next?

With work and career success, I feel like I have plateaued and will hover around here and the next teeny tiny steps will be toward downsizing with an eye toward part-time work or retirement. Not for a good 10 years or more, but eventually. I am not interested in chasing higher profile jobs or being an up-and-comer in a larger firm. I like my little cocoon in the firm now, where nearly everyone addresses me as “boss,” including the 4 partners. As one of the seniors said to a newbie last spring, we all know who really runs the firm. Which makes me smile.

As a parent, my kids are both grown, married, and leading independent and interesting lives. I love being a voice of experience, but honestly, they seem to have sound judgment and making good choices and decisions. For quite a few years now we have felt more like peers than parent-children, and I like that. I do not need to be consulted on their decisions, although I am happy to listen and talk it through with them when the crossroads appear in their lives. I feel fine being told about their activities or if there is some serious health-related issue going on either at the time or beforehand, please. I respect their need for autonomy and space as much as I would respond if they wanted or needed me to be present in a support capacity. In the culture I have worked to foster, this is how family works.

Besides, both my son- and daughter-in-law love that they have such cool parents-in-law.

Other things I’m pursuing? There is no clearly defined peak or end point for the exercise, unless illness or injury sidelines me, at which time healing will be the priority so I can get back on track with exercise. Education is another lifelong pursuit, although not so formally as in college or specific training courses. My reading list is constantly full and being replenished with things I hear about through various sources. I also have a very long list of hobby-like things to try or pick up again, most of which have fall away in favor of daily gym pursuits or the couple of yoga classes per week.

Thinking about this today, I do not see there is anything in my life right now that is so all-consuming that I will win the grand prize and retire from it. But I can understand the confusion of a hard-charging type A who cannot imagine life after success. We type A-/B+ people have learned there is always going to be new challenges to fill the void.

Either that or I am an unambitious slacker. Which I am not. So whatever void is created with each successful albeit vague goal I may have set somehow, there is always something else on my bucket list ready to be started or to be prioritized higher to take its place.

Perhaps it is merely a matter of perception and semantics. In my life, I do not see “winning” as culmination of a pursuit. Instead, I see it as an ongoing, integral part of the life I am leading and a reshuffling of priorities as things reach a conclusion. Otherwise, I suspect I would still be dreaming of my mother of the year award and valiantly attempting to helicopter parent my adult children and micromanage those around me at work. Accompanying such a scenario, negative girl and wildly insecure girl would be out of their boxes, running rampant and burning fields behind us. And really, who needs that?

Happy Friday everyone.

Peaks and valleys

This is a first for me – blogging from a local Starbuck’s. Everything is fine at home, wifi is fully functional and working perfectly. But I wanted/needed caffeine this morning and felt a strong desire for a change of scenery for this post.

Because honestly, I’m having the good, the great, the really shitty this weekend with the whole mom thing. Even better, more in balance with the way my life runs, the really shitty is but a spare slice in the overall cake. Unfortunately it’s too large a fissure to be concealed with frosting.

I am honoring a standing promise to my children to never express fury at their father in this forum. He and his spouse are the source of my extreme dismay on what should be a relaxing and delightful Sunday. I am so angry I had to leave my own house to write this post. That sounds illogical, I know; perhaps I fear my home zen will be tainted if I stay there and stew.

Anyway, I’m back on caffeine with a vengeance. Unfortunately it always happens this time of year – air race week is coming up and I’ll be slamming coffee in the morning (we take the first shuttle at 7 a.m.) and iced tea throughout the day. I will detox as usual when we return.

Work on work-work yesterday, a couple of my clients gave me lovely gift baskets and congratulatory cards for my son and his bride, just as they did when my daughter and A married back in April. I have the best clients. They have only met my kids a couple of times, and they are both very kind and very generous to remember them and buy them a gift.

The good and the great in my being a mom weekend – my kids are fabulous. They love each other fiercely. They take care of each other. I love, Love, LOVE that about them. Having never been close to my sister or my family of origin, I am beyond grateful for the relationships I have with them. It matters to me.

I was listening to M was watching on TV last night and there was a line that stuck with me: some people are not meant to stay in your life, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stay with you. Is that actual wisdom or just a good sound-bite of entertainment for the masses? If my head were in a little more positive, uplifted, less angry place would I even remember hearing it and picking it out of the white noise of background? I suppose it doesn’t matter. I am where I am and it’s running through my head and making me ponder it and all the implications it brings. Even the junk food sources of food for thought are still food.

This weekend, I have a few of those, ghosts of people past who meant so much to me or taught me something important before they exited. While I am angry and upset about things well beyond my control, I cannot and will not hold a grudge or let my anger taint the rest of what was a milestone in our lives. We hung out yesterday with dear friends who remind me that my dignity and my self-respect are far more meaningful now that the self-destructive emotions I might want to indulge. I have a bigger toolbox and better, badder tools to help me cope and stay focused on what’s real, what’s important in my life.

While I woke up late this morning and did not make it to the pilates class I typically attend and did not feel like the gym either, I do not feel guilty or even badly about it. Rational mind says I needed the sleep, and I tend to agree. Instead I went on a long walk, the same route my neighbor and I would pursue on weekends before she died. Rather than wallowing in my fury, I walked it off, mostly. Then I came here for a rare (anymore) cup of coffee and to write it all out.

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And that was this morning … and I wanted to give myself a buffer of time before posting. Anger is good fuel for getting through a few thousand steps of cardio and slamming down a cup of coffee.

It has crossed my mind more than once today I am so glad to be back in the gym and training with J tomorrow morning, because being off the work clock for 2.5 days (out of 4) makes me feel disconnected. In my distraction, it feels like I have been away from the gym when I have not been away from the gym for any unusual amount of time. It does feel as if I have been slacking, even if I haven’t really been slacking. Basically, I have been thrown off my routines and am feeling the impact. Not a terrible thing, just another reminder that I a creature of habit and require my routines to feel normal and safe and in control of my life in its own little groove.

I return to work tomorrow for 2 days, then off on vacation. I know I have a lot to do, but it’s work – it will still be there when I get back. My self-employment clients are pretty well squared away for the week, although I will be available by phone or email if something comes up.

Mostly I feel almost back on track. I knew these couple of weeks would be messed up, and I am looking forward to the next dimension of being back to normal life and on track. Probably, possibly everyone I deal with regularly will be relieved I’m on vacation and out of their hair for a week. But for me it feels like this big chunk of time where I am without direction or focus while I am still at home and struggling with my routines.

I do know a couple of my friends are feeling the heat from my out-of-step-ness this weekend. Not to worry – the email deluge should be winding down to a trickle. I have been on Facebook more in the last 48 hours than I have in the last 2 years I have had a profile.

Winding down this Sunday night, the unevenness of the weekend ends on high notes. The jarring lows are behind me and in my rearview. And I am intentional about leaving them right where they lay.

Good week ahead, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life changes and choices

My son got married yesterday. And my daughter and I had a rare coffee date on our way to getting our hair styled. Wedding hair is kind of overrated, but it was fun to have the amazing curls for a little while and kinda/sorta keep them glued in place for the better part of the day.

C got married in April, a simple courthouse affair followed by dinner that evening with immediate family members. It was what she wanted and perfectly suited them. Since, then, though, she and A have been asked numerous times by lots of different people about when they plan to start a family. Truth is they have already decided against having children, although the reasons why are no one else’s business. I am not a pushy or prying parental unit. There are some limits – I like to know when my kids have to go to the ER for something wrong, even if there is nothing I can do, or no need for me to rush down there, I just like to know – but as a mother I want my wonderful children to be happy. What path that takes is their choice, not mine.

With G’s wedding yesterday and other conversations woven into the fabric of my life, the conversations about life’s bigger decisions come up fairly regularly. And I welcome that. I am glad to be someone people talk to about what they think, how they feel.

G and K have no plans to have children either. K’s mother asked me yesterday how I feel about their choice, because her other daughter is also leaning toward childless by choice, about perhaps never being a grandmother. I did not have an immediate answer that satisfied her, because honestly, I do not think being a grandmother is a role I aspire for in this life. Truth is, it’s not about me or about her; we have had children and are mothers. Becoming a grandmother is a decision well outside our realm of control.

My sister-in-mother-in-law-hood then said something kind of jarring to my ears: that not planning to have children felt a bit “selfish” on the part of her daughters.

I hate when the word “selfish” is used to describe choices that are different or disagree with what we might desire for those we love.

K’s mother was not part of her life for majority of her upbringing and most of her life to date. They began the slow process of building a relationship several years ago, but obviously K does not enjoy the same level of depth and shared memories that I have with G. My theory is that K’s mother would like a do-over for being a mom via being a grandmother.

And it’s okay to have that kind of regret and desire. And it’s probably okay to voice it to your very intelligent daughters who think for themselves and have their own futures mapped out to suit their own, personal visions of pursuit of happiness. But please, do not ever label these very bright and promising souls as selfish for having different dreams and ideas about what their lives should or should not include.

K’s mother was a single mother, and the girls have different fathers. She did not raise either, because of addiction issues that have only been addressed and handled in the last half dozen years. Life choices made as a young woman have a lot of far-reaching consequences, and her life now is not and easy road. I am not someone who judges; I know we all make mistakes. She takes responsibility for those choices now, even though it has cost her dearly in terms of the life she lives now and the relationships with her daughters.

I was a single mom as well. My kids’ dad and I divorced when G was 2 and C was 3, and while I tell myself now that it was the only way, in truth it was a terribly selfish decision and a consequence of very stupid, very immature thinking and choices. We were only 20 and 21 when we married, flipping the calendar into 21 and 22 later that year. I was 23 when my oldest child was born, and I was 29 when our divorce was finalized after almost 9 years of marriage and 3 children.

I was insanely young and stupid. My xH was not a terrible person, but we married too young and for the wrong reasons. As parents we were not terrible parents, and we had a lot of local support from our parents and families. However, when our marital problems became so overwhelming I had to do something. I wanted to separate and seek counseling; he got angry and hit me repeatedly in the face and chest. In front of our children, the oldest of whom was just 5. Marriage was over with the first blow. While I did not call the police or report it – he was my kids’ father and I was still young and very naive – I served him with divorce papers 2 weeks later. It was probably among the more humiliating things in is life to have his family and our friends see me with blackened eyes and split lip.

Thing is – it was a choice I made, one I do not regret but now understand had many far-reaching implications and consequences for my children. Those 2 years after the divorce were hard, particularly the first 8 months when my xH refused to pay child support until wage garnishment orders were issued. I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches during those lean months so my kids could have nutritious food, and I very gratefully accepted my parents’ “care packages” of groceries with fresh fruit and things the kids loved. For about 6 months I shared my 2 bedroom apartment with another single mother and her 2 children, just to ease the burden of rent and food and for mutual help with childcare. I did a lot of growing up in that time.

By the time I met M, things had stabilized at home. I was making more money. My xH was paying child support and for his half of day care regularly and actually seeing the kids on Sunday afternoon to Monday morning. Looking back, if it were not for my parents and xH’s parents willingness to host the kids for an evening each week or pick them up from daycare so I could work overtime I’m not sure how we would have survived. But we did. We lived in an apartment, went the park on Saturday with a packed lunch, never ate out, rarely bought clothes or shoes (my mom loved getting the kids stuff from the store where she worked), and essentially budgeted and was very careful with my earnings.

During the bad times I wondered if I had made a mistake, if my kids were going to grow up and into Very Bad People because I was a single mother. I was exhausted all the time, and craved alone time to just sit and relax and do what I wanted. The stability of a 2-parent home sounded like nirvana compared to being a single parent supporting 3 children on my own, day after day after day. I had many nights of second guessing myself and wondering if I had been supremely selfish breaking up the family unit for my own happiness. And really, how happy was I barely making enough to money to share an apartment with another woman and 5 children? Not very happy, but continually tired and run down and wishing for a different life than the hamster wheel I boarded when I left my xH.

Know that, knowing what I know now about how hard it is to be a parent of good and normal kids under the best of circumstances, I have to wonder why anyone would choose to become a single parent on their own. Or why anyone who does not wish to be responsible for a child of their own would allow themselves to be guilted or forced into that lifestyle.

This is not me being judgmental, but having an adequate, stable income to support a child seems like a minimum standard requirement to be a parent. Yet I just today was reading a blog written by a grandmother about her minimum wage employed daughter and her unemployed boyfriend and their 4 week old daughter. Mom is deeply in debt herself yet has been helping keep this little family afloat. Yet say anything other than “oh, how cute!” about her granddaughter and you’re crucified and labeled a horrible, insensitive, judgmental person. Yet be responsible, choose the childless path, and you are labeled as selfish or not really ready to make that decision. I mean, what if the man/woman of your dreams wants children? In my very logical mind I imagine the man/woman of the a childless-by-choice type person’s dreams is someone with similar values and desires for the long-term lifestyle.

My kids – all 4 of them now – all enjoy children. Their priorities rule that out for themselves, though. G and K have bigger financial goals they wish to pursue that include careers and travel and perhaps an earlier retirement. For C and A, there is the issue of hereditary health conditions for a child of their own, and right now, they are very selfish with enjoying their jobs and having the time, energy, and resources to pursue their own projects and dreams. Whatever their choices and their reasons, they are deeply personal and no one else’s business, yet there are countless insensitive relatives and friends inquiring as to what their plans are for expanding their family.

I guess I just don’t get it.

Even M and I have been labeled “hedonistic” in our tendencies to pursue our own interests as empty nesters. Are we only valid citizens if we are parents and eventually grandparents? Is procreating the only measure of our worth? How awful, small, and narrow that point of view. Honestly, there are times when I think some people would prefer us to be even more boring in our habits and pursuits than we are right now. Or at least until we have grandchildren or incurable health problems. Managing my chronic condition and trying hard to pursue a health lifestyle is hedonistic and selfish according to the judgment of some we know. Not people we respect. Not people we even consider friends. More like family or friend of friends or acquaintances.

Hedonistic? Us? Makes me laugh.

Honestly, I am terribly boring. I work. I exercise. I hang out with M, my friends, chat with my family and my friends, write my blog. Probably my life looks pretty much like millions of other lives. Blogging about it adds a facet where I get to download my thoughts and catalog the adventures in my life.

I have very few regrets about decisions and choices in my life. But, I have suffered and endured the consequences of those choices, and hopefully I have learned a lot from the experiences. What I now know, personal choices are just that, personal. What else I know, being a single parent is very hard, so choose your partner in such an important endeavor wisely and make the decision consciously. Having children, or not, is a concept that anymore seems to be hard for people to accept as not something up for majority vote.

I’m a big fan of personal responsibility and personal choices about the direction of our individual lives. I (eventually) learn from my mistakes, and I am grateful for that. Gratitude is a good. Being thankful feels natural for me. For so long I had so little; I learned to be thankful for the smallest things I earned that made me happy.

Blogging still makes me happy. It’s good to have a safe space to sort my head and its loose-leaf thoughts out.

The Honor System

A lot of places I frequent have these boxes labeled “candy for charity.” The idea is you put in your quarter or whatever amount and take a piece of the candy in the box. While I typically see them on counters manned and lightly supervised by a business employee, occasionally the boxes are left somewhere else in a higher traffic but mostly unsupervised area of the business.

Such is the case in a restaurant M and I were in earlier today.

Now, in general I am rather cynical about these charitable efforts; I do not actually believe any of those funds make it to a worthwhile charity. But I am not utilizing a business with intent to judge them on their pseudo-philanthropic endeavors. It’s just one of those things I tend to notice in the places I go, probably because I am still in vast, lifelong sugar withdrawal and my eye is always going to be drawn to candy, even candy I do not particularly want to eat. Once an addict, always an addict.

Anyway, M and I were eating our meal and chatting about our day. You know, usual stuff. This mom and 2 young children came in with an elderly couple that were probably her parents. Mom went up to the counter to order, elderly folks took the booth right behind us. Little boy, probably about 4, dawdled at a display about 10 yards away and right within my line of sight. He had discovered the charitable candy box. As I casually observed he carefully took out several suckers and pieces of candy, unwrapped at least 2 of them, put them into his mouth and then those back into the box (I know – totally gross!), and then walked away with 3 suckers in his hands.

While I could get extraordinarily distracted by the poor parental supervision going on there, I will give that a pass this time. The other child with them was a toddler being carried by grandpa when they walked in, and just as brother sat down at the table with his booty toddler began talking and screeching loudly. Perhaps he wanted his share of what older brother suddenly had? I was curious as to how mom and grandparents would react to this sudden appearance of several suckers, right before dinner.

Next I know grandpa is approaching the candy box and taking several pieces from it, without depositing the donation for the candy. They were speaking in a foreign tongue, so perhaps it’s a cultural thing they did not understand, but I was disappointed. I tend to obey rules and most social conventions that make sense to me, and while I believe the owners of such establishments are likely very lightly padding their own pockets with the candy for charity scam, I do not know that with any certainty. It’s the context of a child being allowed to casually take something that is not provided as a customer courtesy, and the adult in the party participating in this behavior as well. That little boy may not grow up into a spoiled, entitled brat who has zero respect for boundaries or other people’s things, but in principle observing the behaviors disturbed me.

It just seems wrong.

I can justify this in my own head to a degree – the business owner leaves a box of candy unsupervised and within reach of children. Mom is busy, grandparents are obviously not from around here and may not even read english.

It just seems wrong. It is wrong.

Wrong for mom not to investigate where the ill-gotten sugar came from and either make the child return it, or for the stuff in the box that was way past that point, pay for it. Wrong not to explain the process to grandpa if there is a cultural/communication issue, or to quietly pay for his pilfered sweets as well.

In my mind it seems so very black and white, and to probably everyone else it seems like such a small cakes, what-does-it-matter type of event. Maybe it is small cakes. Maybe this is appropriate karma. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

Except to someone like me, who is honest and desires others to try to be honest as well. To honor the honor system when it is in play. To teach children it is not appropriate to take things that are not offered to them as a courtesy.

Because maybe, in the great big bigger picture, it is the small cakes events that matter most.

The kids are all right

We have a few things going on with close friends this week, so I feel a little distracted and frazzled trying to help navigate from a geographically challenged position. But things always have a way of working out for the best, but it reminds of interactions in the last few weeks with my kids, friends talking about their kids, young friends who are still kids. The world and families remain a complicated place.

Let’s begin with my kids, though.

C and A are doing very well, and from what C has told me in text and on the phone, their life together is good. I believe her. While I am her mom, she truly does not have a single reason to lie or to try and mislead me; I am always going to turn myself into a pretzel rather than judge her for the sake of passing judgment. If she needs help, I’m here. If she needs a sounding board, my phone and my text and my availability are pretty much at her disposal. If she needs a pet sitter, I’ll be calling a boarding kennel and paying the cost. (See? I’d likely be a horrible grandmother anyway.)

A’s family is a different story. They are quite confrontational and just lately here their narrative has been that A and C are “abandoning” the family, and it is simply unfair and untrue. C takes the brunt of the blame in such conversations with A’s brothers, and it frustrates A to no end that he is continually having to defend his wife against their attacks or to explain, again and again and again, that he and C are (1) both working full-time on different schedules, (2) C is picking up part-time shifts at vet hospitals for their house goodies fund (they recently purchased their first home), (3) trying to save their money for house goodies, pay off A’s student loans, and saving for C’s return to school next year, and (4) spending much of their limited free time putting in the sweat equity on their home. Family members offer to help, but then they want to debate the kids’ choices – everything from the color of the paint on the wall to how they arrange the furniture. It is complete and utter madness to me. The few times I have been over to help C with something, we talk about future plans for tile and flooring, and while her choices differ from my own, it is her house and will be lovely. My goodness, the idea of trying to get her to change her mind – from this lovely oyster bisque (really pale gray) to M’s preferred blinding white would never occur to me … until she and A were telling me about A’s aunt (an interior designer) trying to tell them all the mistakes they are making in the color palette, etc. At that point I was horrified. This is their first home; they could paint zebra stripes in garish fluorescents and it should not matter to anyone else.

And I truly feel for them, because A’s family is so freaking huge and there is a constant barrage of phone calls, texts, invitations, etc. from various branches. They all talk to each other about everything, are chin deep in each other’s business, and seem to be stricken stupid that C and A wish to not share all their personal information and business and let decisions about their lives be made by majority vote. C does not mean to bring it home and share it with her mother, but it happens. M and I try to maintain Swiss-like neutrality, but honestly we understand their desire for privacy and autonomy about their personal lives and business. I could also care less if A’s family blames me for the kids’ choices to seek non-family business resources, but my strong opinion is that if you love your family you do not do business with them, period. Had they chosen another route – hiring various uncles to broker their mortgage and be their realtor – I would not have objected strenuously or said anything more about it. My daughter asked, I expressed my opinion, and I trust her judgment to do what is right for them.

So last night when I got a phone call from my first sister in mother-in-law-hood, I should have known it was not going to be about a reception/bbq for the kids or that she was calling to discuss logistics and details. Nope, she was calling to complain that she “never” sees the kids and wondering if I had the same issue. Ummm … no, not really; we are all busy people and get together whenever we can make it work. The conversation was interesting, if not always agreeable. I love my kids, including the ones marrying into my family, and I respect their right to lead independent, autonomous lives including keeping their private lives private. Ours is a tiny family of 6, total, and maybe 20 if we count all the others on their dad’s side. My sister in MIL-hood does not understand my perspective, and now I’m not even sure she likes me much as a person, but that’s okay. I did not really like my own sibling all that much either. And what is important – our kids are in love and happily married. Truly, that is all that matters to me as far as the joining of our families.

Then on to G and K.

The wedding is in about 6 weeks, and all is mostly going well. But there is pressure from K’s family – from her aunt stealing my dress, to her mom not being able to find something she wants to wear that K actually likes, to her other aunt being batshit crazy. I think this may be normal behavior for brides and grooms planning a larger event. And then every dress I have purchased – there have been more than a dozen now – have been met with some level of chilly reserve from K. The one I like the most and feel is the most flattering on my person … I think she either dislikes it’s casualness or feel it is somehow wrong for me. While I encourage open and directness, K seems reluctant to tell me that she hates it or whatever has her hung up. Not to worry – I have another 6 on order in different styles and shapes. But still, it makes things awkward if she desires inclusion and is not able to share honestly. I am not going to take it terribly personally if she speaks her mind, and for the bit I might take personally I will get over it quickly. At the end of all this, the day is all about her and about G; if she think the dress is wrong and she’ll hate looking at wedding pictures forever, that’s fine, I can keep looking. Without honest input, though, I am floundering in the dark.

Not that what I wear should matter to either of them. However, if K has a strong enough reaction to be weird with me about it, I would really prefer to hear it than have her be weird about it.

M and I are also hosting a bbq the Saturday after the wedding for friends of ours and theirs who may not be able to attend because of the limited guest list. Several of our friends are volunteering to help with the food prep, cooking, and clean-up, so the kids’ and their guests do not have to worry about it, and I am happily, graciously accepting the assistance. However, K is getting wound up about it, worrying about food and food allergies, and all sorts of other things like where all the cars will park. On one side of us the house has been vacant for quite awhile year and the son who manages the place said it was fine for us/our guests to park in the driveway (3 cars wide). Our other neighbor will be out of town that week (I know because we are feeding his cats) and also said it was fine to park in his driveway for the party. Again, I am not sure if she is actually concerned about these things or feeling a bit powerless about an event in their honor. I left that issue with G, because it is his party as well, and if she wants to do something different, just speak up; I am so not going to be offended. G assures me it is just the wedding stuff going on, lots of decisions, lots of stuff and details to cope with deal with, etc. I am leaving the door open, though, just in case. Believe me, I would be fine with not having 60 people descending on my home for an afternoon. I also know several people are planning to uber or car pool so they can imbibe, so maybe the car situation will not be that awful.

So right after typing out those paragraphs, I get a call from K reminding me that I am meeting she and G at the venue for the final details meeting, and did I want to join them for dinner afterwards? You betcha! She also apologized for being distracted about the dresses and the bbq details (completely unnecessary yet still appreciated) and told me about the latest chapters in the batshit crazy wing of her family and her escalating anxiety about them crashing the wedding. She broke down in tears on the phone and just broke my heart! I promised – I SWORE – it would be okay, we would MAKE it be okay on the big day, and I texted M that we may have to bring some big burly men friends to patrol and keep watchful eyes out for the crazy wing in K’s family. In the bigger picture, the dress, the post-wedding celebrations matter do not matter at all. As a family we will do anything and everything we can to make this event go off without a single glitch or unwelcome crashers.

*sigh* I hate drama, and I really hate that it is visiting my son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.

And finally, the “let me let go” issues of a couple of close friends. Different ladies and varying degrees of the same challenging: cutting the apron strings with their young adult children and trusting them to manage their own lives without unwelcome influence and input from their mothers. I feel for them, the moms, because it can be kind of difficult to transition in these hands-on mom roles to mom as a distant thought in the life process. While my advice is to simply step back and trust them and the lessons you instilled in raising them, it is hard. For me personally I can remember the defining moment with my son, when he exasperatedly suggested I let him enjoy some independence. Had he doused me with cold water I could not have been more shocked, but he was right. I needed to let go, even if he was still living under my roof. Not much changed in reality – he was still living at home at that time, coming and going as he wanted and needed, but common courtesy continued to dictate that he leave me a note or text about his approximate schedule or if he would not be home at all. M was on the truck a lot, he and I were working through The Troubles, and G and I became more like roommates until he moved out on his own.

But because I have never been a helicopter parent or overly controlling in the first place, my ability to step back and let my kids go off and learn to adult was easier. I know both C and G have made mistakes in everything from finances to poor choices in relationship partners, but if they never have opportunity to experience consequences how will they know what is a mistake that is going to be painful to repair (and therefore should not be repeated) and what is just life that mommy will clean up for them? It puts an unreasonable and unfair burden on children to have all their whims catered to and to never actually endure any repercussions from poor choices.

Saying that to some of my friends … well, one would think I was suggesting they tell a naked toddler that he/she is grown-up now and to go fend for him/herself, and then lock said naked toddler outside in a blizzard. Nope. We are talking about college-age children who are unable to breakaway. The LaBrea tar pits have nothing on these clinging mothers and it is causing a lot of strife and discord in otherwise close and happy families. We are friends, I know they are hearing me, but actually putting the reasonable advice into action is proving … paralyzing. Empty nesting is apparently terrifying to them. I told M that I am either the most uncaring mother to ever walk the earth or these ladies need to develop hobbies other than trying to micromanage their children’s lives. While I already know getting them interested in joining a gym, taking yoga, or even getting a pass and trying either/both with me is unlikely, but I am a born again true believer that exercise will help with both the anxiety and the accompanying depression. And obviously cannot stop talking about it here either.

Because according to friend J, I am a “bolt of f**king positive lightning constantly setting his f**king ass on fire.”

I am actually not, most of the time, setting his ass on fire. But hey, whatever works to get him off the fence and making decisions. If M offers to fly across the country to help you out, by now friend J should know the offer is genuine and we absolutely mean it. We are not over here wringing our hands hoping you decline a polite offer; we do not issue hollow offers of assistance. When M says he can fly out and help you out, I am sitting here with my finger on the mouse waiting for you to say something so I can book the flight and rental car options I have already researched and am ready to purchase.

Love my kids, my family, my tribe of friends. We all have our issues at any given moment, but it’s nice to have sounding boards, help and support when we need it most. Believe me, I have been on the receiving end of that match or lightning strike more times than I care to admit. And I would not change a thing about it.

Happy Wednesday! I was driving home from the gym this morning and thinking the sky is such a pretty blue today, and it does not feel like it will be too hot. Small things, small favors, because I will be in our new office space for a meeting and there is no a/c right now, so not too hot is a huge gift. It will still be hot in there, but not sweltering melting kind of hot. That alone makes me ridiculously happy, even if I was already in my regularly scheduled good mood.

Celebrating Mother’s Day

On Friday I had a coworker ask me if I had any plans for Mother’s Day, and I was startled to realize it is Sunday, today. First and foremost, I really do not celebrate Mother’s day and encourage my kids to celebrate it with their remaining grandmother who does appreciate the acknowledgement and being feted by her husband, children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren. Or their mothers/grandmothers-in-law.

For me, I honestly feel like every day is Mother’s day. My kids are amazing and wonderful to me, and in the big picture it is humbling that they like me as a regular person as well as love me for the place I hold in their lives. This was not the experience I had with my own parents, particularly my mother, so it seems like a miracle that I have built this with my children. I do not need a Hallmark holiday to encapsulate the reality of our day-to-day relationships, because I know all too well how fortunate and truly blessed I am in this life.

But since it was my birthday this week and there were great cards, flowers, special dinners, special lunches, cake in the office the day after, and such happy, celebratory stuff all around me, it has me thinking about my kids, parenting, and where we are on the journey.

This year is uniquely special, in that C got married on April 22, G will follow suit on September 9. Different weddings, different celebratory occasions, different kids. When I look at pictures of C’s wedding and what she and A posted from their Disneyworld honeymoon, they look so happy. And it touches me in deep, abiding ways that are impossible to explain in mere words. But I recognize a parental journey milestone when I feel it, and I am so happy for her, for them.

A couple of weekends ago K and I were chatting and she asked me what song I wanted for my dance with G at their wedding reception. I had carefully blocked from my mind that there is dancing, period. M does not dance, and I have discussed and described my own geeky social awkwardness in detail. So it’s not something I am comfortable with and definitely do not do well AT ALL, but I can suck it up and deal for this special occasion. My first thought when she asked about the song? Please let me choose something appropriate and mercifully short. Thankfully I did not say that out loud and stopped myself from texting it.

But I did take it seriously and immediately began my search for the right song that is mercifully short. And before 5 minutes of reading and listening had passed, I was bawling my eyes out. Sentimental sappy me, brought down by music connected wedding and family.

There were songs I love and had gone to sleep on for a long time. There were songs completely not right for this occasion that I added to my Amazon prime playlists anyway. Songs that reminded me of my oldest daughter and how inwardly painful it is for me on these milestone events that she is not here with us. It’s old pain that never fades completely, yet it still catches me off guard and sucks the air from my lungs when it happens.

Mother’s day is hard when you are short one kid. But without loss and without pain I suppose we would have a difficult time discerning the good and the sweet moments the come with the day-to-day business of living.

In my heart, I know I am better, kinder, more loving, and more generous of spirit from raising these particular children into responsible, productive adults, for being their mom. Motherhood brings a lot of tough lessons, from how to set aside my own innate selfishness and put others first to understanding and really knowing the impacts my words and my actions had/have upon them. My humanity has its flaws, of course, and I tend to believe the way I have managed my own struggles has taught them things I never learned from my own closed-off parents of origin.

For me, being a mom has been a defining quality in my life, and I am grateful every day for the experiences I have had and the great unknowns in the future ahead. To my friends and readers who are mothers, I wish you a day filled with love and the joy and sense of satisfaction for the role we have undertaken. Whatever your place in the journey as a mother or as a daughter, being a mother is not always easy and how we make it work is as unique as the children we have in our lives. My hope, always, is that you are enjoying the journey and all its possibilities.

Happy Mother’s Day to the many mothers and grandmothers out there. And happy Sunday to all.