Category Archives: Parenting

Paying It Forward

Another quick one, my chickadees. Yours truly had too much fun this weekend, and you know what that means. The facade I like to cultivate that I’m a dedicated, organized blogger gets blown to Cheeto land. I did get to see my best friend from childhood and her delightful, funny husband. They live in the desert, and I don’t get to see them very much, so that was completely awesome.

Back at work today, I got a text message from the kid to tell me his friends were over again and that they’d used my card to get food. I sighed heavily. They have been frequenting my house several times a week for the past few months. I get it, this is their last summer together before college changes everything. But today I got crabby. Where are the other parents? I muttered to myself. Why is my house where everyone gathers? No one offers to pay for anything. We end up driving everyone one home. Grumble, bitch. I checked my account for the food delivery damage. $60 bucks. Sigh.

But then I thought about my childhood friend. Her house was the gathering house. It had a yard all around it and had the advantage of not having a dad who yelled, like I had at my house. In the summers, we practically lived at her house, showing up before lunch and staying way past sunset to play hide and seek. And all day we inhaled immeasurable amounts of ice cream, Popsicles, sandwiches, snacks, and Kool-Aid. True, there were 7 kids who actually lived there, so what was a couple more, but still. I never heard her mom complain about us being there, sprawling all over the furniture, running around the yard, or consuming mass quantities of food.

So as I sit and listen to the kid and his friends laughing and talking trash (OK, it’s Dungeons & Dragons trash talking), I realize, I’m paying it forward for all those summers of freeloading as only kids can do — freely, without malice, and with gusto. Thank you summer second mom, I’m honored to carry on your tradition.

Gratitude

It was a very busy week, so I’ll keep this sort. I’m happy to report the kid is graduated! I’m grateful for my sister and-bro-in-law who were able to come from Connecticut for the ceremony, for my ex for being the kind of ex where we can celebrate these milestones in peace, and for my kid who tossed up his mortarboard in joy and then promptly lost it. He’s careful most of the time, maybe too careful, so if there was a time to unload something, this was it! It also saves him from having to put it in a box and move it around for years before either losing it or find it moldering away in an attic. Well done! I’m also grateful for the live streaming so family and friends in other states could watch.

I’m also grateful for the Boston Gay Pride Parade that happened on Saturday. It certainly was a year to come out and show support. I had to leave early to facilitate graduation celebrations with the kid’s friends, but not before I got to see Senator Elizabeth Warren dance with the trans group. She hugged, she waved, she smiled, and she was hugged and selfied in return. Her and our joy was uplifting, but even more moving was just having her there. Some days it feels like she and a handful of other Congressional members are the only things standing between us and Cheeto flea Armageddon. So, I’m so grateful to live in Massachusetts, and will continue to stand behind Elizabeth and others to keep on dancing and fighting and being grateful.

Birth, School, Work, Death

OK, so my reference to the Godfathers’ song from 1988, is a bit melodramatic, but what is teenage existence if not melodramatic? Plus, it’s my solemn duty to reference anything 80s, anytime I can.
My kid had a crash course in adult life this week. First he got yelled at by yours truly for not handing in assignments and a lecture about doing what you are supposed to, even if you don’t feel like it. Senioritis has reached an acute stage, and I can use that word because I work at the hospital.
A few days later, our beloved hamster, Marble, who has gotten me out of more than one blogging jam with his cuteness, decided on Wednesday that his allotted two years were up. As one friend said, Marble has moved on and will  forever be remembered with his cheeks stuffed with seeds and carrots. Even though this is hamster #3, the kid was still sad. I am too, truth be told. But we didn’t have too much time to mourn, because at the end of that day, we got word that the kid had received a local scholarship, and we’d find out details at a ceremony next week.

Thursday started with a visit to the vet for Marble’s cremation and ended with a 2-hour wait to get the kid fitted for a tux for the prom. Yes, my gaming, independent kid decided to go to the prom on his own to see what the fuss was all about. On the way to the fitting, he confessed he was nervous and wasn’t sure what he was doing. He also knew the ticket had been bought and the tux rented and there was no going back. If that’s not a “welcome to adulthood” situation, I don’t know what is.

The next day he got dressed up, looked awesome, and I drove him to the prom fashionably late. We agreed he could call me at anytime to come rescue him, and it took him a few minutes to get the courage to open the door after a brief strategy session. I then headed home and sat waiting though the next three hours like a firefighter waiting on the next call.

When I finally got the call at the end of the night, I was jubilant, or perhaps slightly delirious — it had, after all, been an intense week. I thought, “He stayed until the end, he must’ve had a good time!” Of, course, this is my kid we’re talking about, and he tends to lean more to the glass half empty way of viewing the world. I picked him up, and he proclaimed the experience, “Meh.” However, we did have a good discussion about his expectations, and that not everyone has a fabulous time at prom or in high school for that matter. I argued that the main takeaway should be him giving himself credit for facing his fear of going to prom on his own and going. He seemed to feel bad that he probably wasn’t going to have any nostalgia for his high school days, and he compared it to my nostalgia for 80s music. I explained that my love of 80s music and the memories I have of say, my friends and I hunkered down watching this new, amazing thing called MTV — 20 minutes of moon footage interspersed with the Buggles singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” — had really nothing to do with high school. Except that I was a high schooler during that time. I pointed out to him that his nostalgia would be around the video games he’s played with his friends. His spirits seemed to brightened at that idea.

Which is good — growing up means getting your own nostalgia and appropriating anyone else that’s interesting. Long live the 80s.

 

 

We Have a Winner

Collegepalooza came down to two contenders — state schools, one in Massachusetts and one in New York. We drove to each one on consecutive weekends for accepted student day for a final look. We were nearly a 1/2 hour early for UMass — who knew driving on a Sunday morning cuts 30 minutes off the travel time? And we were about 1/2 hour late for SUNY. You can read about all those shenanigans here. Both had students cheering us on while we drove along the winding roads to the parking lot. I think they made us park far away from the main road to the school just for this purpose. Both had super geeky professors in their physics/astronomy departments, which seems about right.

After much hand-wringing and deer-in-the headlights looks from my teen, he finally picked one — class of 2021 at SUNY New Paltz. I was hoping 2021 would be one of those iconic Space Odyssey years, but alas, it’s not. He’s stuck with an odd graduation year like I was, although in retrospect 1987 had a lot of great 80s music. Maybe he’ll get good 20s music.

He’ll be a Bostonian in a school of nearly all New Yorkers, a fair number of those from NYC. And while I like to make fun of New Yorkers — it’s kind of a favorite Boston past time — I also have to admit I met a number of them when I went to college at BU, and they taught me a lot about confidence. That NYC attitude annoyed and impressed me, which is a great way to get interesting conversations started. And the ones not from NYC have attitude about explaining where they do come from in that state. That’s takes a certain amount of resilience. In the end, even if they are faking it ’til they make it, they generally have confidence to spare, and that is never a bad thing to learn.

And he’ll get to know a non-New England point of view that’s probably as different as if he’d gone to school farther way. New York is a state of mind after all. And that’s pretty much the main point of college, if you ask me. Well that and a bunch of other stuff that I certainly never did, nor did my siblings, for that matter. Right guys? Will I lose him to NY? It’s a 50/50 split in my family. One sister left our home state of Connecticut after high school to live around the Albany area and has been there ever since. The other sister went to Syracuse University in New York, and came back to Connecticut with her native New York state husband-to-be in tow.

Either way, just getting there is a pretty big deal in itself. Congrats to my kid and to all the kids who are finding their way, whether it be college, trade school, working, starting a business in a basement, tripping around Europe, or following the Grateful Dead around, if that’s even still a thing. Go find your thing.

 

Photo credit: Envisioning the American Dream

 

 

Flashback

This week I had a flashback to when my kid was a baby. He is now an 18-year-old senior, and even with teenager shenanigans, I’d still rather have a teen than a baby. Babies turned out to be not so much my thing, and you won’t see me hanging creepily around families with babies, staring too long. If I’m hanging around, it will be for some other completely different creepy reason.

But that’s another blog post.

So there I was Friday afternoon, focused solely on my offspring, making sure he was packed for our overnight trip to visit a college for accepted student day. Yes, we’re on the home stretch of Collegepalooza, and I love the dean who said while polling the kids about the other colleges they were deciding on, “And how many of you can’t decide and are driving your parents crazy?” My kid raised his hand. See? Better than a baby.

I had already packed, so my stuff was in the car. I asked a few more “Did you bring your [fill in the blank]” questions and it seemed we were ready.  We were going to stop at my sister’s house for dinner as a driving break and then drive for another hour or so and head to a hotel near the college. This was my attempt to recover from the previous week’s accepted student day at a college closer to home. It turns out you can shave 30 minutes off the drive time in Boston if it’s a Sunday morning. Since I try never to be awake early Sunday morning, this is not something I would know. And now that I do know I don’t have to wake up at 6:30 am on Sunday, I was hell-bent on not doing that again. So, we were booked at a hotel well within roll-out-of-bed-grab-coffee-and-get-to-the-event distance.

So on Friday, I did a last check in on the kid, he grabbed his driving learner’s permit, I had my coffee in hand, glanced around the house for anything being obviously forgotten, and did the little mantra, “Well, whatever we forgot, we’ll just buy another one,” and off we went. As I was overly pleased with my cleverness, it wasn’t until we were two hours into the trip that I realized what I forgot.

My wallet.

I don’t carry a purse because I find them annoying. Also the name is stupid, second only to pocketbook. If the garment industry would actually make all women’s clothes with pockets, we wouldn’t even need the darn things. In the winter, I mostly use what my friend calls a coat purse. I put the three things I need — phone, keys and wallet — in the pockets of my coat. In summer, they go in my pants pockets, unless I’m wearing a cute sundress, and then I have compromised with a crossbody bag, which is absolutely not a purse. It fits only those three things, and if I’m feeling spatially up to it, I can squeeze in my sunglasses.

But on Friday, I had switched coats and as I was focused on my offspring, I’d left my own important thing in the old coat. This happened a lot to me when my kid was a baby. On trips I’d make sure he had everything he needed because the price for leaving behind the favorite toy, or the baby wipes, or the kid himself was rarely worth paying. The Department of family Services can be a real bitch about that kind of thing.

On the highway, I realized the only ID we had between us was the driving learner’s permit, which clearly stated it could not be used as a form of ID.

Now the real fun began. Do hotels ask for ID when you check in? I could recollect handing over my driver’s license and my credit card at a counter, but I couldn’t tell you in what circumstances that had occurred — the airport? Renting a car? Buying Sudafed? Were hotels in that mix? Then of course was the paying part. Would they take Apple Pay on my phone? Did I even know how to use Apple Pay on my phone? Did my sister have a couple hundred bucks in cash lying around I could borrow?

I called my sister and gave her the heads up. She did have cash, but other than that there wasn’t much we could do until I got to her house. When I did I called the hotel. The front desk person said they did accept cash (rather snootily declining to even answer the question about Apply Pay, I may add). However, that was moot because they needed an ID to check me in. That’s when I wondered, what do people who are sneaking around having an affair do? Losing all the dark outdoor spaces for secret trysts is bad enough, and now you have to identify yourself if you take it indoors. What is this world coming to?

The hotel woman did say they’d accept a photo of my ID if someone was at my house and could take a picture and send it to me. Somehow, that seemed even more stupid than requiring one in the first place. How serious is this requirement if you’ll accept a photo of a photo ID?

So I sat in a small puddle of self-pity for a few minutes, but then within the next hour, my sister had procured an airbed so we could sleep over, she had cash to give me and coffee, and the hotel didn’t charge me for canceling late — clearly the right thing to do since I was physically unable to check in, but the “right thing to do” and “payment policies” rarely rub up against each other, so I was grateful for that.

All that was left was not attracting any police attention and the fact that I had to do all the driving. I was pretty sure I’d be able to talk my way out of not having a licence if I got pulled over, but if my son got pulled over, with only one form of unacceptable ID between us,  we were pretty much toast. But I drove the speed limit, a novelty for sure, and no one did anything stupid near me on the road, also a novelty.

Sending a big thanks to my sister and the universe for getting us to where we needed to go. My kid still doesn’t know where he wants to go to school, but at least I know that next time, I’m letting him forget something.

 

Happy Anniversary

Because I’m not acknowledging Friday until it happens, and I will acknowledge it on Saturday in Boston at one of 370 the sister marches across the country supporting the Women’s March on Washington, I am instead today writing about looking back.

This January marks the 6th anniversary of when I decided to stop a year of couples therapy and “take a break.” At the time, the 3 people in our family were seeing 4 therapists. I think the ratio for me and my ex was 3:1. We were getting individual therapy, couples therapy, and spending spend time with the kid’s therapist. The kid was getting off easy with just having to see one. Suffice to say, we were outnumbered, and on many days I felt outgunned. We were extraordinarily lucky that our insurance was paying for it all, and while I generally don’t have great things to say about health insurance companies, we were most certainly eating into their profit margins that year, and I did not get one nasty letter from them.

If you’ve ever been to therapy, you know it’s very time-consuming. The time spent in the office is just the beginning. It’s the hours of traveling to and from the appointment, the time spent processing all the damn therapy and doing whatever home work they assign you — hey, that 5 minutes sitting in the waiting room remembering what is was you were supposed to do for this session adds up over time. And don’t forget the hours when you sit on your bed and stare out the window, wrestling with the guilt that your kid is in therapy because of you, when you know for a fact that no other kids are in therapy because of their parents. It’s a wonder I had time for my job.

My then-husband and I had been in couples therapy once before when our son was around 2. Things improved for a while after that, but it didn’t stick. I should’ve known this second time wasn’t going to work either. We went back to the same therapist and while she remembered us, after a few sessions she confessed she couldn’t find the records from our previous time with her. And it wasn’t that she had purged her records. Oh, no, she had records from before us and after us, and where there should have our records, there was a big empty slot. I can’t think of a clearer signal from the universe, except maybe for that cartoon of the giant anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote.

I would even venture that the therapist was less than enthusiastic to see us, and many days she seemed kind of tired of us. Who could blame her? We were tired of us, too. We were also probably the most boring kind of couple for a therapist: no juicy infidelity, in-person or online, no meddling in-laws, no addiction issues to Pokemon Go or Netflix binging. Just plain old drifting apart and ineffective communication skills. We were actually highly skilled at being ineffective communicators, having honed it to a razor-sharp edge over 20 years. Yes, 20 years, so I find it amusing when divorce is described as a”failed marriage.” We were pretty good for about 8 years and had a great kid. Then things were rocky, and we decided to go to therapy round 1. That took about 3 years. Things got better for about 4 years and then they started the inevitable slide to the disconnection destination for 5 years. By my count that sounds a lot like life: some wins, some losses, and some what the hell are we doing here?

How many people even have friends for 20 years? Or a job? Or even piece of furniture? Do people call their couch that they are dragging out to the curb a “failed sit-upon”? Do people call a friendship that ends a failure? No, they probably say something like it “ran its course.” Hmmm. O, language, you tricky mistress. For the record, I have close friends who I’ve known for 20, 30, and even 40 years. So clearly  I am a successful friend maker; it’s the marriage thing that mystified me.

So there I was armpit deep in personal therapy, couples therapy, and secondhand therapy from my son’s therapist. When it took my ex about 8 months before he could articulate what he was angry about, a vision of being in therapy for the rest of my life flashed before my eyes. That’s when I knew I couldn’t take it anymore. Of course I had to talk about it with my therapist first. When he suggested we take a break from couples therapy, my relief was so visceral, I nearly slid out of my chair. I was just so happy to have an open slot every other week, I forgot that “taking a break” pretty much means the same thing whether you’ve been dating for 5 months or married for 20 years. No one is fooled that it means something super good is coming after the “break.” Except me, but I was so overwhelmed with all the therapy, I didn’t think past that freed-up hour. My ex understood better than I did, and of course asked the inevitable question, “For how long?” In my head I said, “Forever. Is forever good for you?” Then I knew I was truly done with everything.

Six years later, and despite the election, I am currently therapy free (we’ll see how long that lasts), I have a great life, a great kid, my ex and I work pretty well together on his behalf,  and we respect the separated lives we’ve created.

So go ahead and call it a failed marriage if you need to. I’ll say it ran its course, and maybe we can agree that I had a very successful divorce.

 

Top 10 Posts from 2016

Intellectually I know 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever, but it was pretty bad; so let me have my grief before I move on. On my better days and a couple of glasses of wine, I try to see 2016 as a wake-up call. We’ve drifted from some essential human ingredients–some of which we know and others that gobsmacked us seemingly out of nowhere. So it’s time to face that, and I tell myself to suck it up, buttercup. Of course, we still need to laugh and wisecrack on the way to saving the world. Princess Leia and Hans Solo taught us that.

And in that spirit, I present to you the top 10 posts for the year, selected by your interest; you guys have good taste. It’s a balanced mix of serious, funny, and frivolous.

Thank you for allowing me to butt into your life with my random musings. Thank you for telling me you liked a post that I was unsure about or that I enjoyed writing. Most of all, thank you for just being here with me. It means a lot.

10. This one is a good reminder to keep checking my own biases and little (or big) judgy ways. Please forgive my unfettered Anglophile-ness. It’s a Blonde Line Between Love and Hate

9. Ah, Collegepalooza 2016. The applications should be done by now–surely I can trust my teen, right? Right? Well, we’ll always have rubber bands. Snap to It

8. Oh, perimenopause! You blogging gift from the gods. Although I fear that your weird pains will be eclipsed by the PITA prez (pain in the ass). The Mother of All Aches and Pains

7. And when all else fails, look at the cute hamster to make you smile, take a deep breath, and get beck in the ring. Cute Hamsters Is All I Got

6. Some days it’s all I can do to be verbal, so “kind” seems like a stretch. Looking at hamsters is probably a good start. Nice, My Ass

5. Sometimes you stand and fight, and other times, you flee. Alpha Flee

4. Dancing is good. Dancing with a cast can be even better. It’s not a bad reminder that barriers mostly exist in our minds. You Should Be Dancing Part II

3. Here’s the much-needed frivolous post, strategically placed before the impossible politics. For Fart’s Sake

2. Darth Vader is out there. Grab your light saber and your blaster, we’re making a run for the Millennium Falcon. Time to Get Busy

  1. I love that two dancing posts made it in the top 10, but I wish I hadn’t had to  write this one. Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

In 2017, I promise to keep writing, laughing, fighting, and being Sandy.