Send Selfies

Lisa writes: Today is the day I have dreaded since that second little stripe turned a very pale pink and my heart leapt into my throat. Today is the day without a rushed breakfast, the day in which I did not scream or worse curse, the day I made no threats and took no first day of school photos. Today is the day where the first name I called was the dog’s.

Shadow in doorway

But even as I find missing my kids was every bit as bad as I thought it would be, I have been given the gift of wisdom by two extraordinary women.

I am missing the day-to-day bustle of family life that already seems like a dream. I find it all but impossible to admit to myself that the decades of living wrapped in a cocoon of family intimacy, a world unto ourselves that once stretched out long in front of me, are over. Late this afternoon when none of my boys come bursting through the front door, our house will feel far too still, like a shell that has been cast aside, having fulfilled its purpose. A small part of me will feel like that shell.

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I did not parent alone. Along with my husband, my sons’ father, I had female friends and acquaintances at every step of the way sharing their thoughts, broadening my insight and now, once again, easing this transition. This morning my phone rang off the hook, two friends dropped by. Everyone was checking in on me, wanting to see if I was okay. And while each of these calls was heartwarming and I am of course okay, if a little heartsick, it was the wisdom of two women, deep profound wisdom, that will see me through.

Liane Kupferberg Carter published a piece in the Chicago Tribune last week. In it she examines the notion that her nest may never be empty. Her younger son, who has autism, may live with her and her husband for many years. In a truly must-read article she explains:

My husband, Marc, and I inhabit a peculiar no man’s land. Our children are grown, but we are not empty nesters. The realization that we will in all likelihood never be empty nesters is a sadness all its own.

…I’ve been a member of an invitation-only Facebook group of middle-aged female writers. …They lament their empty nests, but mostly they write with excitement and joy about rediscovering themselves. They celebrate their newfound freedom to travel, return to the workplace, new hobbies or new passions.

I’m embarrassed to admit how much I envy these women. I’m not scaling Machu Picchu, sailing the Galapagos or climbing Kilimanjaro. I’m not “finding” myself. I’m right here. Where I have always been.

In her beautiful writing I think Liane is not asking her reader to feel sorry for her, nor is she arguing that having an empty nest is not a real feeling of loss. She knows the heart tug of our kid’s moving on as she experienced it when her eldest son left home. But the wisdom she shared with me was to step back, to zoom the telephoto lens of life out and take a far broader view of existence than that offered by the confines of our own experience. As always, Liane brings warmth and humor to everything she writes, but in reminding her reader to see beyond their own narrow slice of life, even if they cannot fully understand it, she has done me a great favor.

Another wise friends reached out to me the night before I took my youngest to school. She asked me to remember that the thing which pains us is that which gave us such joy. And that like everything in life, we only fully appreciate things that are not forever. I wanted to argue with her, tell her that I appreciated things that were forever, that if my children had stayed small forever, lived with me forever, I would have remained grateful.

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But I know that to be a lie. I may have loved my sons’ childhood because my love for them is the purest emotion I have ever known. The marvel of their very existence never lost its novelty, but it would be untrue to suggest that in the grind that is daily life when our days together still seemed limitless, this remained uppermost in my mind.

I heard the sound of time whooshing by in their very first weeks of life. In the days and months as their infant selves grew and changed rapidly I could feel an undertow so powerful that I knew it would lead us to this day.

This morning I sent my sons a group text and said, “First September morning since 1994 that I am not taking your first day of school photos. Send Selfies.” I am still waiting for those selfies.

Photo credit (black and white): Cathrine White
Photo credit (color): TBKilman

 

Motherhood: It Doesn’t Get Easier

In the world of blogging about motherhood, there are few writers who make us laugh at our mom selves with more genuine skill than Jill Smokler, aka “Scary Mommy.” A mother of three (5, 7, 9) and mega-successful blogger, Jill’s first book was on the New York Times bestseller list.  Her second book, Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies,) is equally entertaining and genuinely hilarious in detailing all the ways motherhood doesn’t get easier!

Mary Dell was lucky enough to meet Jill this week at Alice’s Tea Shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Afterwards, Grown and Flown created a list of “Vicious Lies” for the teen years and a few reality checks on motherhood.

Motherhood Comes Naturally

1. Kids need to be grown and independent by the time they leave for college, able to balance their checkbook and do their own laundry.

Reality Check: Some kids are independent at six, others find their independence for the first time at 2 am in the laundry room of their dorm when they do not have a single item of clean clothing left to wear.

2. Going back to work will be a snap once your kids are in school all day.

Reality Check: Years out of the workforce will mean you have to relaunch. Few jobs end at 2:30 pm right around the corner from the carpool line.  Sick days, snow days, vacations and summer…don’t worry you just need a back-up plan for about 200 days a year.

3. It gets easier.

No, not for a minute. Sure, your little kids may not have slept, may have barfed in your hair and thrown tantrums in the grocery store, but teens still throw up, only now it is a much bigger worry and good luck picking them up and putting them in their rooms when you want to change their behavior.

[Read more...]

Calm Before the Storm, Hurricane Sandy

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Dear Son,

While I trust you will be absolutely fine in your college dorm room these next few days with Hurricane Sandy heading toward shore, I cannot help but worry. You may be 22 years old but my instinct to protect you and your sister will remain undiminished throughout my life. Today it is the calm before the storm and we are prepared here at home. Unlike every other storm, this is the first time you have not been with us when the forecast has turned grim. A large swath of the eastern part of the country is in harm’s way and that includes you, dear.  So, just in case you have not already thought of these things, please humor me – you are good at it – and keep reading: [Read more...]

“You’re a Good Mother”

My mother’s philosophy on gift giving tends toward the mundane. It was my father, before his death,  who would come up with the “wow” gifts for each of us that would be waiting under the tree on Christmas morning.  My mom, a good mother, supplied the other packages (pajamas, turtlenecks), and would fill stockings with staples – socks, underwear, toothbrushes.  When we asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she answered with her own list of basics -nylon stockings, hand cream, and the perfume she liked best.

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I have come to appreciate her style of gift giving. I think of it every time I put on a dress and hunt through my drawers for stockings without runs in them.  I never find any.  I go barelegged or I change into trousers and socks. My mother understood that a wonderful gift is the thing you need to get you through the day.

My mother’s health and memory are now failing and  she doesn’t get around like she used to.  Although she loves being with her grandchildren and likes it when we take her out to restaurants, dining with her presents challenges: her hearing is poor and unless we look right at her and speak directly to her, she interrupts everyone’s dialogue with “What was that? What did he say?”

With her fading memory, she doesn’t remember what she has done or who she has talked to or what her friends are doing these days.  But she has this: she thinks my children are amazing and she loves them.  She tells me, often, what wonderful people they are and then enumerates the reasons why.  And then she tells me that I am a good mother.

When I think about the gifts my mother has given me, I realize that her simple reminder that I am a good mother is perhaps the gift I need most these days.

What gift have you given or received that helped you “get through the day?”

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