Archive for August, 2008

Mushrooming To-Do’s

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I went to the doctor for the kids’ annual check ups today. I made the appointment early thinking, great, I’ll knock them all off at the same time in about an hour and then I can get back to work.

Well. Think again.

I was there for two and a half hours. Who would have guessed that Svenja would have a freak out about the shots and have to lie down and be monitored (after dry-heaving for a while)? Who would have thought the nurse would be so THOROUGH. I mean, I’m grateful and all but do you have to ask about how often they floss their teeth and is it really a bad lie if I just nod when she says, “Every day, right?”

But here’s the clincher. I came away from that appointment with eleven new items on my to-do list. ELEVEN. When I told Kevin, he was finally impressed. Usually he acts like, no biggie, I could do that in a heartbeat when I moan about how tedious and time-consuming some of these child-related chores are, but this time he was like, “Wow, you are actually Superwoman!”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that no, not really, I’m just a plain old mom. We all do it, all the time!

These are the natural, everyday facts of being a mother: you never actually master your to-do list. Never. Once you realize this, once you accept it and make peace with that challenging reality, you learn to handle the unexpected turns in life better. You stop seeking definitive answers and you stop expecting to reach the finish line.

As a mother, you roll with the punches. Your frustration level is lower, because you have understood that you cannot ever be on top of everything. Learning to live with imperfection, with unfinished business and mushrooming to-do’s takes some real patience. But try, because the rewards are manifold.

Back to School

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who has been working full time this summer for the first time in many years.

“Gotta say, sort of can’t wait for back-to-school…” she admitted.

I told her that I have to go to Ikea and Target today and she said, between gritted teeth: “Oh… getting back to school stuff done?”

I wish! I still have so many chores on my plate related to this hellacious bathroom renovation, and, um, it’s my son’s 15th birthday TOMORROW and, um, have we got him one single gift yet? No! Am I running to the store today to desperately buy him some stuff? Yes! So — am I getting organized for back to school? NO!

Sure , it’s nice to have the new backpacks at the ready, the shiny sneakers bought, the cubbies cleaned out and the desks cleared up and organized with new bookshelves, folders, what-have-you. But tell me this, do they have to come with all that on the very first day of school? Can it wait until the first day after school — no homework yet and no one elbowing you out of the way at Staples for that perfect highlighting pen?

So here’s to some sensible procrastination. I could squeeze it all in now and go crazy, or I could wait until AFTER everyone else has rushed to the stores. It’s all going to get done, the only question is: will I do it like a perfect mom or like a real mom?

You guess.

(And now, whoops, it’s 5:30 am, time to start working…)

Cousins, cousins, cousins… aunts and a few uncles too

Monday, August 18th, 2008

We were just at a family reunion with 48 far-flung members. Bunches of kids running around, eating mac and cheese for a week straight and not a vegetable in sight. Late nights, late mornings and fairy palaces built in the woods.

The teenagers slept all day, counted their zits, played badminton and talked (yes, actually held conversations) with the adults.

The adults made the rounds of the cabins, leisurely checking in with the other gray-haired-ones, assessing life’s ups and downs (thankfully, mainly ups) and just hanging out.

No phones. No internet. Hardly anyone even opened a book or a newspaper. Pure down time.

Buddha and Teens

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Life as a mother is a constant work in progress. You’ve probably figured this out already, but no one ever has all the answers. We are always searching, and sometimes the search can be very interesting…

Early this morning I was reading Deepak Chopra’s novel “Buddha.” Late last night, I was flipping through, “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk.” Then I stopped for a minute to ponder the strange and wonderous intersection between these two incredibly different texts.

The Buddha book is about living with compassion and accepting and overcoming pain. It is, essentially, about rising above our physical selves and acknowledging that our day-to-day worries are minor in the face of the awesomeness of the universe.

Cool stuff. But what about paying the bills or getting the kids to school on time?

We struggle to deal with the burdens of our real lives (and whether they are small or large, everyone has burdens) by holding onto a sense that there is something larger at play, something that puts the little irritations or big burning desires into perspective.

When I think about these considerations in respect to the teens book I was just reading, it makes me laugh. The teen book is so enlightening and sensible in its own way, and so utterly the opposite of the Chopra novel. Put the two together and I think you have the essential quandary of the life of a parent: how to marry the concerns of the everyday with the perspective of an enlightened human!

Everyday reality is something us moms  cannot really transcend — we have to figure out the nuts and bolts of dealing with hormonal kids or exacting work demands or babies needing food. But if we can do it all with some humor, with an understanding that it’s ok to be doing the best we can (as opposed to being perfect), and that there are forces at work that are larger than us… well, then I think we’ll all be all right in the end.

Babies and Friendship

Monday, August 4th, 2008

An old friend visited yesterday. She’s a year older than me and has a three-year-old and a 9-month old (compared to my almost-15, almost-13 and 9-year-olds!). We tried to have a conversation and for about four hours, we managed to conduct a stacatto, interrupted, utterly non-linear and almost nonsensical exchange punctuated by both of us hovering steps behind a crawling baby, pulling a huge dead moth out of said baby’s mouth, feeding a wiggly-screaming-starving baby, and, finally, entertaining a dead-tired, sleep-fighting baby.

Phew. This was a friend who I loved visiting in NYC because she was a career woman without kids and seemed to have no interest in my life-of-kids-diapers-and-chores. It was so refreshing!

And how things have changed! I love the turn our friendship has taken. All those years when I would escape from my suburban life and live vicariously through our visits, I so enjoyed her for being everything that I was not. I never took my kids with me, and we talked about love and life, work and sports. Not about kids or husbands or any of that “normal-life” stuff.

Now she is where I was about 13 years ago. I have to bite my tongue not to give her too much advice. As a “new” mom, you don’t want your friends telling you what to do–you want to live it and learn it through your own experience. You can’t imagine how many times I have to stop myself from saying something like, ohmygod read chapter five, you HAVE to have sex more often or else! What could be worse than a know-it-all friend who spouts advice at you from HER OWN BOOK?

Instead I smile sweetly, and wait for the day when we can have a full conversation again. Maybe in another 13 years…

Good friendships can last and thrive through all sorts of phases… and I am so thankful for that gift.