Let Them Grow: What It Really Feels Like To Miss Your Kid’s Firsts

Photo taken after her SECOND domestic field trip with the school. She was so happy to see me. That didn’t last long.

There are so many firsts in life: the first taste, first step, first grade, and the list goes on until it exhales from memory altogether.

 

We experience life at our own pace, but everything changes when you have kids. You start doing things according to their schedule, not yours. You feed them when they want to be fed, not when it is supper time. You lay them down after they fall asleep, not always before. And when they want to become more independent, you step back and give them the space they need to survive.

 

My daughter woke me one night with tears in her eyes. She was upset over a four-day field trip to another state that she and her classmates had been planning all year long. It was a big deal to both of us because, aside from spending an occasional weekend at her grandparents, she had never been away from home before, and it was all happening the next day.

 

As we sat on the edge of the bed, discussing apprehensions, she shared her biggest concern.

 

“It’s weird how all of my firsts are happening at school,” she said. “I always thought you would be with me the first time I did anything and this will be my first time riding a bus, flying on an airplane or going to a baseball game. I’m just sad that you are not going with me.”

 

We held each other tightly as the weight of her words washed over us. For once, I was going to miss her first, and the thought of it was consuming us both.

 

After squeezing out a few more tears, I shared something else. “You know; you don’t HAVE to go if you don’t want to.”

 

Up until that moment, she was under the impression that any school-related decisions were not hers to make. It was a deliberate plan that I had been drafting for months, but something inside of me was not sitting right and I wanted her to be the one to make the call.

 

“What do you mean, I don’t have to go?” she asked, “Do you mean I can stay home with you?”

 

And then it hit me: I had just taken a year’s worth of fraudulent joy and obliterated it over a moment of weakness.

 

She sat quietly with her eyes in full swing while contemplating my offer. Then, without so much as a blink, she took my hand and shook me back to consciousness.

 

“I’m going to miss you so much,” she whispered, “but I don’t want to regret not going.”

 

And just like that, my daughter made a choice. She was getting on that airplane whether I liked it or not, and I had to let her go.

 

I woke in the middle of the night to find her standing next to me. The enormity of circumstance had, once again, trumped her confidence, and she was sobbing in much the same way. She crawled into bed with me, and I handed her a box of tissues. Wide awake, we cuddled, giggled and wept for the next two hours until we fell asleep with smiles on our faces… just in time for the alarm to go off. Tomorrow was today, and my baby was leaving.

 

It is difficult to articulate the torment that accompanies parenting; it just is. We worry about everything and whatever lies in between: a curse that comes from loving someone more than yourself.

 

As I hugged her goodbye one last time, my second thoughts were palpable. Every what-if imaginable was now floating through my mind, waving bright red flags of uncertainty.

 

“Don’t do it,” they shouted, “don’t let your little girl get on that plane!”

 

I thought about her a lot that day, as she soared high in the air with a panoramic view of freedom that—at her age—I never knew existed. Like a pilot, I had taken both hands off the wheel and given up complete control because that is what we do: we parent until the memory lands safely back in our minds, and then we thank the powers that be for putting them there.

Why I Hate Christmas Trees | Guest Post by Gina Fenton of Extreme Mom

nutcracker

Having sex with a hostile, sticky porcupine (also known as a live Christmas tree) is número six on my “Things That Make the Season JOYFUL” list.

NOT! I hate live Christmas trees. They are sap-regurgitating pines that contain eleventy gazillion pine needles that end up in my underwear—and other dark recesses.

For the record, it’s not just the sap and needles that make my hair stand straight up like Marge Simpson’s; it’s a combination of that and the ceremonial wrapping and unwrapping of the Screw-You Lights, which are inevitably tangled, dead, or both, EVERY—SINGLE —TIME.

I absolutely despise dancing the tango with lights. The end of that chapter almost always involves scissors, alcohol, and singing the annual holiday overture called Screw This and Screw That.

I especially hate said sap-bleeding monstrosities if one is acquired when it’s 10 degrees outside and the snow is blowing.

Jack Frost definitely blows.

Heck NO, I won’t cut a tree down like a pioneer woman. Leaving my warm castle and driving to the farm stand  in frigid conditions is already  extra credit in my Mom-Call-of-Duty book.

This Christmas it went something like this: “That one looks good.” A new Christmas-tree-picking-out record of less than five minutes was made; and my eeny-meeny-miney-mo blind selection wasn’t half bad. I won at Christmas tree roulette.

Technically, she’s not fully decorated yet, but that’s all I’m going to do for tonight. If my minion-elf family would like the remaining dozen or so bulbs and tinsel hung up around the house, they can do it themselves.

My family still uses tinsel. No kidding. What a shiny disaster it has become. The only real perk is glittery cat turds.

Really.

Yes, even our pets help decorate: We end up with a yard and a litter box that are beauteous.

Live trees for Christmas are lovely and they smell amazing, but after 20-something years of pine needle enemas, I’ve finally had enough. Who needs the extra work and aggravation during this joyful season of stress, exhaustion, and pulling the last hair out of my head?

“Why not use a fake pine?” you ask.

A couple of years ago, and against my family’s wishes, I bought an artificial tree. I figured it would grow on them. I presented my fake tree as now-we’re-one-of-those-hip-families-with-two-trees kinda thing, hoping sooner or later they’d accept it and I’d be free from tree muckery forever.

Technically, I lost by a vote of five to one in favor of a real, muthermucking mess of a tree.

So, for the next few months, I will be dissecting pine needles out of my unmentionables and chanting The Muck It overture.

Next year, count me out. No more Christmas trees, dead or alive (or fake).

 

END

 

“Why I Hate Christmas Trees” is an excerpt from the new anthology Mom for the Holidays: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Tantrums at Christmas and Hanukkah. Visit them at momfortheholidays.com! You couldn’t ask for a better gift to a fellow mom! (Want the UNCENSORED VERSION? It’s available on Kindle here!)

 

Gina Fenton of Extreme Mom: There’s the painfully boring PERFECT mom, and then there’s . . . Extreme Mom. Gina’s blog is the uncut and uncensored thoughts bouncing around in her head, except on speakerphone. Matriarch extraordinaire of four teens including an extra credit bundle called ADHD, OCD, Aspergers, Bipolar, and every other quirk not yet recognized in the DSM Proud member of the Parental Special Forces. That’s like a Green Beret, but with more practical skills. She’d like to advise a rating of M for mature, but mature is not exactly a word she’d use to describe herself. She is more like a fun grown-up. (extrememom.net)

 

Photo credit: Romain Brami via Foter.com / CC BY

 

The Parenting Moment: A Lesson In Discipline

Isla and Mom

I have the most beautiful nine-year-old girl in the world: a delightful compilation of everything simple and pure. For the most part, my daughter is a brilliant, charming, funny and thoughtful human being, but last night she wasn’t herself. Last night, she chose to raise hell (and my blood pressure) by transforming herself into a little smartass and forcing me to choose my weapon of discipline.

 

Truth be told, the incident didn’t happen at night; it occurred during the wee hours of early morning. I was nearly unconscious from a recent Lunesta party when I heard the first scream… “MOMMY, get in here!” My first thought was, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Why can’t she just handle shit without waking me up?”

 

I stared at the clock in a fog of confusion and noted the time. It was 1:27 am exactly. That’s when the footsteps commenced and thumped their way into the Jack and Jill bathroom we grudgingly share.

 

“I can’t sleep!” She cried from the porcelain throne.

 

“Well, what do you want ME to do about it?”

 

With a hint of perplexity and just enough attitude to warrant a bare-ass spanking, she pointed toward a glowing light on her bed and advised me of her intentions. “I can’t sleep, so I am watching Bewitched.”

 

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” I scoffed, snatching the DVD player from the mattress and stomping out of the room. “Go back to bed.”

 

This, of course, was the beginning of World War III between a tired mother and her strong-willed child. There were outcries, wall kicks, death threats and door-slamming fits of rage that lasted well over an hour—until she finally crossed a line and crushed my soul.

 

“I hate you!”

 

And there it was: the three words that every parent knows they will hear at some point but never expects. I sat on my bed for a moment to collect thoughts and suck the tears back in. By now, my body was full of so much rage and sadness that I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I put the pillow back over my head or split that DVD player in half?

 

When the door opened again that one last time and our eyes met, it was evident that she felt remorse. “I’m sorry, mom. I didn’t mean that.” But as a mother, I felt it was time to step up my game and teach her a lesson that she would never forget.

 

“Mom… NOOOO! I can’t believe you just broke my DVD player!”

 

“I can’t believe you just broke my heart.”

 

End of story.

Hello, I’m Brock Turner And I Rape Unconscious Women

Hello, I am Brock Turner and I Rape Unconscious Women

I could write a lot of things about Brock Turner. I could tell you what an asshole he is for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, but you already know that. What you may not know is that, aside from evading a suitable sentence for a heinous rape crime, he is getting released early today for “good behavior.” He spent 90 days of a six-month sentence in the Santa Clara County Jail for an offense that should have put him behind bars a lot longer. So basically, instead of getting punished; he’s getting praised for destroying the life of an innocent girl. Way to protect a victim, California.

This whole “it’s okay to rape someone if she’s drunk” thing needs to end, and parents need to hold their sons accountable instead of justifying their behavior with drastic pleadings. There is a first time for everything, but rape? There is nothing naive about that. My guess is that he’s done this before, and will no doubt do it again. But even if it were a first-time offense, why would that matter? Why would a person be awarded for only doing it once?

Sexual assault on any level is maddening. The devastation it causes to the victim is intense and permanent. They cannot *blink* it away or pretend it never happened because the darkness is a now part of them; traveling deep into their souls and burning the ability to trust.

There are some who continue to blame victims of abuse. For whatever reason, they assume these girls are either lying or deserving of what they got, but I disagree. I don’t believe anyone, man or woman, should ever be violated in a way that humiliates and scars them for life. And, I don’t agree that a short skirt or too much alcohol gives anyone the right to harm me, but what do I know? I’m just a 49-year-old woman who was abused as a child before I ever knew what alcohol was.

In the past few years, I have met more (rape) victims than I care to discuss. Some, like me, were too young to do anything about it, but others were no different from this girl in California. They were just girls being girls; hoping to meet a nice guy. The ironic thing about our culture is the image it has shaped for women. We are expected to look and dress a certain way if we ever want to meet Mr. Right, yet held responsible whenever his friend turns out to be a rapist. Who knew?

I am supporting my friend Audrey Hayworth at Sassmouth in a nationwide challenge to bring attention to the outrage that IS rape culture. Please join us today—the day of Brock Turner’s release—by sharing a related post, Facebook status or tweet using #TwentyMinutesOfAction #CanHeEatSteakNow.

The Boogeyman And Other Failed Mysteries

boogeyman

Children are often afraid of the dark, but where does it stem from? Every night for the past two weeks, my daughter wakes up screaming. She hears things: a creak, a footstep, a partial sneeze and it is all coming from her closet. I am a newly single mother and, frankly, a bit leery about opening a door where someone may or may not be wielding a knife on the other side, but I do it—for her—while secretly cursing those obnoxious cries for help. Still, I could not understand why, at age nine, she was suddenly afraid of the boogeyman.

My mother suggested she might be suffering emotional trauma: a symptom of divorce, but I didn’t want to hear this because that would make it MY fault and, well… fuck that. I have enough on my plate already without the added pressure of feeling guilty. Even so, I could not stop thinking about what she said. What if it WAS my fault and, instead of doing something to help, I was looking for an excuse to be right? Downplaying my daughter’s anxiety was not okay with me, and I knew I had to do something. I decided to speak with her one afternoon while driving home from school.

Me: Honey, I want to talk about what’s been going on lately.

Her: *Stares blankly into space* Can I have a snack?

Me: *Tosses a bag of grapes into the backseat* I know you’ve been having trouble sleeping, and I think maybe something is bothering you. I have a feeling I know what it is.

Her: *Rolls eyes* Grapes? Got anything better?

Me: No, just eat the grapes.

Her: *Eats grapes* What do YOU think is bothering me?

Me: Wait—so something IS bothering you then?

Her: What do YOU think?

Me: Come on. Be serious.

Her: Nothing, mom. Nothing is bothering me.

Me: You can tell me.

Her: Why do YOU think it is?

Me: Well, you mentioned your friends were talking about getting robbed at school the other day. And now, all of the sudden, you are concerned about burglars.

Her: I’ve always been worried about that.

Me: True, but lately, it seems to have gotten a lot worse. Can you tell me what’s REALLY on your mind?

Her: *Gazes out window* What do YOU think?

Me: *Takes a deep breath* *Imagines mom’s face when I tell her she’s right* I know it’s been hard since your father and I s—

Her: Goosebumps.

Me: What?

Her: Goosebumps.

Me: Goosebumps? You mean the show you’ve been watching on Netflix?

Her: Yeah, it’s pretty scary. The one about the zombies freaked me out.

Me: Wait, I’m confused. You mean to tell me that the last two weeks, where I’ve had to get up in the middle of the night and check behind beds, doorways and shower curtains was because of a TV show?

Her: Yep, Goosebumps; spooky stuff.

And there you have it: for once I was right, and my mother was wrong. Imagine my short-lived joy when she picked up that phone and pretended not to care.