Sage advice from Mom

One of the greatest gifts I have received as a mom is to have my own mom travel this journey alongside me. My mother-in-law passed before Hubs and I were even engaged and there is a hole in our lives where she should have been. My best friend’s mom is alive and well and completely estranged from her daughters and grandchildren. But my mom has been there from the beginning. She babysits my children two days a week while I work and has for the past four years. She buys important items for the boys like same-color-socks so that their mother (me) doesn’t have such a hard time when it comes to matching. And she always has the best, most down to earth, honest perspectives of motherhood. And that may be what I value the most.

I love being a mother. I have embraced the gift of more time with my kids since I have opted to work part-time this year. I love going on playdates and to music classes and playgroups. I love cuddling up in the middle of the day and reading books to Bubba before a nap and then watching Calliou with Rocketman. These are moments that are fleeting. Ones that I will not get back.

And everyone tells me so: Enjoy them while they are young! It goes by so fast! Remember these moments. In a minute they will be packing for college.

These comments breed panic within me. I have a grumpy moment or feel overwhelmed, and these voices will ring in my ear as I picture a teenaged Rocketman rolling his eyes at me while I lament the beautiful little boy that once believed that all guns shoot only water.

And then I have a conversation with my mom. And that grounds me.

Today is Monday. In every way. It was a difficult morning. It was a challenge getting both kids and myself ready and out the door. We finally got into the car at 10:45 to go to an OT screening and speech class for Rocketman. I had waited all morning to eat a cardboard-tasting Atkins bar, but had not had time, as my focus was on getting the boys well fed, dressed, and out the door. I rejoiced, now, that I had time during this seven minute drive to put something on my stomach and elevate my blood sugar. I had not quite gotten it to my mouth when Bubba spotted it and started to whine. Then scream. You see, it does not matter how well fed this child may be. If a person is eating something that he is not, he feels the need to also eat that something. Immediately. And if he doesn’t get it, he screams and screams.

And so, with half of an Atkins bar hanging out of my mouth, and one hand on the steering wheel, I manuvered my other hand through the diaper bag and then thrusted it into the backseat awkwardly to reveal a handful of animal crackers. While the serving method wasn’t ideal, I felt pride in the fact that I had been able to present anything at all. And then Rocketman said, “I don’t want animal crackers. Don’t you have a juicebox I could have?”

We arrived at our destination. I dragged both kids into the school, signed in, dropped R off and walked back out with Bubba. We drove to the McDonald’s drive thru, and then to a picnic area close by. Here Bubba and I enjoyed a 10 minute winter picnic before we had to jump back in the car again to go pick up Rocketman. Again, I dragged Bubba into the school.

As we sat waiting for Rocketman to complete his class, Bubba immediately discovered a large rubber exercise ball that had been left in the hallway. We spent about ten minutes pushing the oversized ball back and forth to each other in a calm, quiet manner until Rocketman came out. At which point all hell broke loose.

As I attempted to speak with his speech teacher, Rocketman and Bubba reunited and their combined energy caused a grand explosion in the form of the two of them doing belly flops onto the exercise ball and laughing uproariously. I immediately stopped my “conversation” with the speech teacher and grabbed Bubba with the theory: minimize the stimuli and calmness will ensue. This lasted for about one minute as he shimmied in my arms until he was on the floor again, racing for the ball. In desperation, I attempted to gather the necessary information from the speech teacher while wildness clearly escalated behind me.

And then an unknown teacher yelled, “Ladies! THEY should NOT be playing on that BALL!” as she barreled down the hallway. Apparently, she had witnessed Bubba coming uncomfortably close to putting his head through a wall as he flew over and off the ball. I separated the boys again, made an uncomfortable comment about wall/ball injuries being the story of my life and slunk out of the school embarrassed.

Rocketman strolled behind me as I made a beeline toward my car. He stopped to smell a garden full of dead flowers. I kept going, furious about his behavior. I turned around at the end of the sidewalk as he strolled toward me. I yelled at him to hurry up and he started running toward me as a teacher arrived at the front door near him. He lost his footing and fell down on the sidewalk. The teacher glanced my way and made a disgusted face as she noted that I was much too far away to help my injured child, and also that I was not budging. She crouched down over him and asked if he needed help getting up and shot me another nasty look before she disappeared inside the building.

Once in the car, I expressed my displeasure about R’s behavior on the ball in the hallway. His only response was that he wanted to go to a restaurant. I told him that I had gotten him McDonald’s and that I had thought it would be nice to have a picnic in the backyard since it was such a beautiful day, but now I was unsure that he deserved it after his behavior in the school. We came to a decision that from now on, he would walk out of speech and sit down in a chair in the hallway until further notice. He apologized and we agreed to have a picnic.

I pulled into our driveway, unpacked the car, and set the lunch up on the picnic table. I waited until Rocketman was enjoying his nuggets and then went into the house to let the dog out and nuke my coffee. Rocketman showed up at the backdoor a minute later for no apparent reason. Before I had a moment to remind him to leave no food unattended with the dog around, he was screaming at the top of his lungs because the she had knocked his meal to the ground and was devouring his nuggets. Stuck behind him at the top of the stairs, I encouraged him to run at her and get her away from his lunch. He just stood there frozen and crying. By the time I had made my way around him, all that was left of the Happy Meal were apple slices.

This upset Rocketman immensely. He sobbed into my shirt as I tried to reassure him. We had spaghettios in the house. He could have some yummy chefboyrdee. He cried and cried stating that all he ever wanted today was to eat his Old McDonalds. I felt I had no choice. I dragged the naughty dog into the house, threw both kids in the car and drove back to Old McDonalds. Half way there I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Back home, back to Old McD’s, and back home once again to set up my third picnic of apple slices and McNuggets and to get some sort of satisfaction out of watching Rocketman relish them.

By Bubba’s naptime, I had a migraine. I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head. And then my mom called.

I told her I had a migraine and she told me she’d let me go. And then I found myself going on and on about my terrible day. And this is what she said: No wonder you have a migraine.

She went on to say that as she travels with the boys and meets other grandmothers, she is often confronted with the idea that one needs to embrace every moment for it is all too fleeting and will soon be lost. And, while she knows it to be true: this time does go by fast. Little bodies grow big. Squeaky voices grow deep. Sometimes these moments are absolutely exhausting. Or monotonous. Or dirty. Frustrating. Worrisome. Because these precious little growing creatures demand so much. So much of the time. Your time, your patience, your body, your guidance.

And we take pictures of the cute, the sweet, the cuddly. But not the ugly, the ornery and the prickly. And so we forget those moments. And maybe that is a good thing. But maybe not. Because if we remember that moment- the one where we have a piercing migraine and are completely exhausted by midday because our kids are being brats and the dog ate their McDonalds- then maybe we can appreciate the future stages of childhood and adulthood even. Maybe we can look back at the photographs and embrace the cute, sweet and cuddly moments each snapshot holds and at the same time embrace the satisfaction that is received in each passing year as they become more independent.

And eventually, when the kids have established a career, married and have kids of their own, I could patiently listen to a young father banter about his hectic day with his children and, as my mom did today, shout out, “I love my quiet boring life!”

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