Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Being a Mom

So maybe this should be one of those posts that I write near Mother's Day or when a big event in a child's life happens, but sometimes you've gotta strike while the iron is hot.

I've been considering this post for a long time and it wasn't until today that the right words seemed to form. Unknowingly, my niece Britni Favero inspired me. She has a cute, little, baby boy named Benson. Benson was born with a heart condition and it is always a bit touch and go with him. Whenever she posts on Facebook or Instagram it is, without fail, a moving experience. I don't purport to know how she feels or even understand the dire straights Benson could be in at any given moment. But I AM a mom and I DO know how THAT feels.

Benson is in surgery today and this is what Britni posted. "He is the sweetest thing, my heart started missing him even while he was still in my arms... I have heard it said before, having a child is like having your heart living outside your body... These are some of the truest words I have ever heard."

Folks, this feeling does not change when your little kiddos become big kiddos, it just becomes infinitely harder to express to them, or to anyone else how you truly feel. Some days you feel brave, like the days when you have brazenly taken a hot bagel out of the toaster with your bare fingers. You feel empowered and strong, so you risk a side hug or a word of appreciation or, heaven forbid, love, to your hormonal daughter. Or you take a chance with an affectionate smile at your surly son as you pass in the hall, who then quirks his eyebrows and asks, "What's wrong with you? What was that look for?" And you wonder why you even made eye contact at all. And if acknowledgement was unavoidable, you realize you should have just gone with, a chin wave and asked, "Ts'up?" Of course that will probably get the response of, "Mom, you're not young, so don't attempt to use phrases that only those of us who don't remember Michael Jackson's hair catching on fire, are supposed to use. "

When my kids were little I, of course, was a concerned mom. I listened to make sure they were breathing at night. I hugged them when they fell down, I stayed up at night and bounced them when they had gas. I sacrificed a new outfit so I could afford the more expensive baby formula that would hopefully prevent future gas. I invited 13 screaming kids (including my own) to toddler birthday parties and pretended to love every minute of it. I left a classy (or not) restaurant in the middle of a meal because my daughter's tooth was loose and she was afraid she was going to swallow it. This where I found out how truly stressed out a 6 year old can become. I chased my beloved darlings down in the craft store and pinned them against the wall with my shopping cart to prevent them running away from me, because I sure there were at least 4 pedophiles walking the aisles in Michael's looking for stray children to kidnap. I sat for many hours in the hot sun, on Saturdays, watching sports that I had no particular love for, because my child liked to make daisy chains in tall grass. I drove them 40 minutes round trip for them to attend a friend's sleepover only to have to make the same 40 minute trip 4 hours later after they had watched  "Creeperville IV", and sleeping in someone else's house was not an option.

Don't get me wrong. It was hard and stressful, but I wanted to do those things. I wanted to be a good parent. I WAS a good parent. I saw a home video recently where I was overseeing my three children (ages 6, 4 and 2) washing dishes, by hand, at grandma's house. I was taken aback at how patient I was. Wow! Was that really me? Most of the time I just felt like a maniacal mess with a few tender moments and slobbery kisses splashed in, which made it all OK.

As hard and physically demanding as all that was. They were my babies. I was their mommy. They thought I was neat. I thought they were neat. They thought I was pretty. Of course they were the most beautiful children on the planet. They thought my ideas were great. I enjoyed their candidness and creativity. And in those moments when we didn't see eye-to-eye, I could pick them up, and force them to see it my way (even if it was while they were kicking and screaming).

Then along came teenager-hood and their needs were different. Their size was different. They somehow became autonomous beings. They had ideas, they had feelings. They had opinions, they had strong opinions. Then Mom became that annoying person who served them broccoli instead of Fritos and tried to make them brush their teeth and wear deodorant. Mom, that embarrassing, old person who knew nothing of the current, up-to-date world. Mom, who could never be as cool as their friends parents. Mom, who made them come home earlier than they planned because she thought 3 am was a little too late to be out on a date. Can you even imagine?

I mean really? Wasn't I the cool mom? Didn't I do my best to stay up on good songs and TV shows and clothes and movies and electronics. Didn't their friends like me (somewhat at least). Didn't I give them their space, their own room, their first iPod? They should be appreciating the difference in me as opposed to how my parents were; which was uncool, unhip and definitely embarrassing and out of touch.

Don't they know? My heart is still out there, living and breathing on the outside of me. It hasn't changed. Don't they know that my arms still ache to hold them. Don't they know I miss them before they even leave the house in the morning. Don't they know I still like to watch them sleep. Don't they know I think about them constantly and worry for their health and well being?

It is no longer cute to post pictures of their mishaps or "adorable" failures on Instagram. In fact it is no longer cute to post any type of pictures of them at all. I feel alone, isolated and unappreciated. I don't get any of the supportive comments of my fellow moms, "LOL, I feel your pain" or "My kid did the same thing". I'm not sad (not too much anyway). I realize it is the circle of life. They are learning to become independent and, hopefully anyway, become responsible enough to live on their own one day. But I miss the interaction, the support from others. I miss the honesty that little kids have. I miss that time period when they would want to cuddle with me every morning. Oh my aching arms.

Being a mother to older children is fun sometimes. You can quote (grown up) movies ("That caviar is a garnish") You don't have to listen to songs about purple dinosaurs anymore. You can leave home (even for extended periods) and no one minds - in fact they prefer it. You have someone to mow the lawn and vacuum the floor. But, no one told me that once kids grow up it gets harder. What? Wasn't I supposed to be leaning back on my laurels, congratulating myself on helping them be able to play a rickety version of  Fleur de Lis on the piano, keeping them drug-free and from being kidnapped (remember all those creepers in Michaels?)? Shouldn't I be congratulating myself on keeping them from going down the path of immorality and from covering themselves in tattoos and other body art? This stage in life was supposed to be the easy part, right? One always hears of classes being taught or books being written about "dealing with toddlers" or about "having a meaningful relationship with teens". Why haven't I heard about books/classes having to do with raising (um, raising is NOT the right word - Living with people whom you gave birth to but who you rarely have any say over) young adults.

Do you realize that anything you say or ask gets misconstrued as unsolicited advice or prying or control tactics or disapproval? Do you realize that the relationships very are fragile? Sometimes you only get one chance to say something (sometimes none). It's so unfair. Do you realize that secrecy is easier for them because of their freedom and independence.  I really truly appreciate the, as one very close friend put it, "Mormon Mom Spy Network" It's amazing how effective this can really be. If the kids knew we used it and how amazing it is, they would very likely keel over and die. What they could never understand is that we don't use it against them (at least not very often;). We use it to find things out, tidbits about our former rugrats. Tibits that we wish THEY would just share with us themselves. Come on kids, throw us a bone, you'd be surprised how even the smallest piece of information can sustain us for so long. We want to know these things because we love you, you are important to us, not to pry into your very secret, very important lives. How could they EVER understand?

So, I don't want to sound all depressed and melancholic. My knowledge gives me a positive outlook. My kid's pre-frontal cortexes will develop all the way. They will think more like real adults than giant pre-schoolers. Who know's they might even think I'm a little bit neat again one day. My beliefs give me a positive outlook. I have an eternal perspective. I believe in something call being a "Savior-on-Mt. Zion" and I believe mothers will be numbered among these. (Father's too, but especially mothers because of their emotional attachment and involvement in their children's lives) I may have to wait until the afterlife to experience this kind of lasting peace, but I can wait.

In closing I would like to post some links to a couple of blog posts that I have read recently. They have impacted my life in a big way and if you're anything like me, you'll like them too. Us moms of older kids are not alone. None of these are long. They are, however, funny and poignant and I wish I was half as good of a writer as them, but I wish I was a lot of things, so that's neither here nor there.

Dear Lonely Mom of Older Kids
Mama, There is Hope.
The Phase I'm In

Also if anyone can find me an article that was published in the Reader's Digest circa 1997-2001 about being a "cool parent" I will love you forever. I read it long, long ago and have forever wished I would have saved it. Now I have no idea how to find it. While you're at it, even though they were on different subjects than motherhood, I would like the link to an article called "What Were They Thinking" and one about how to apologize (sheesh I'm not even sure that's what is was actually about- ok I forgive you if you can find that one. Can you say vague?)


D-dawg said...

Stefani, I can relate to this. Lately I have felt desperate at times for someone to help me figure out these old kids I have! I am soooo much better with the younger crowd and feel a little bit lost and confused with these early teens. Anyway, it made me feel better to hear I'm not alone!!

Annette said...

I laughed at all your memories! What a fun mom you were and still are. I don't think you give yourself enough credit. If someone were filming you today, you would see that you are still calm and got it all together. And I don't think you will have to wait for eternity for your posterity to recognize it also. Loved this post and love you my ultra talented friend, writer, artist, seminary teacher, mother. And speaking of seminary…you have 20 children right there who also think the world of you!! Thanks for your great example to me!

Annette said...

And thanks for your post, because you KNOW I'm feeling it too. So great to have friends like you for moral support, even if we are not as "out there" social media-lly ;)

Derek Lindsey said...

Good post Stef. Your kids are a lot of fun. Must be something about good parents.

karensumpter said...

You are one of the coolest moms I know, but no kid ever thinks his/her own parents are cool! This post will hopefully help me appreciate my crazy, tantruming kids who can't even leave me alone for 2 minutes to go to the bathroom! One day your kids will rise up and call you blessed... Hopefully sooner than later. Btw, your kids are/were adorable and you are a great writer!