Posts Tagged ‘parent’

Higher education.

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

I took my oldest child, our daughter, to a residential writing program at Bryn Mawr College this morning called Girls Dream Out Loud. The two week program focuses on writing, dramatic arts and fine arts for girls (middle school through high school). This is the second year of the program, and it looks — on paper — to be wonderful, and it feels — in person — to be fabulous.

Walking into her dorm room, which she’ll share with another girl for the next two weeks, was like walking back in time. The building is very old — historic, really — not unlike some of the buildings on my own college campus. The two beds were on opposite sides of an uncarpeted floor, window a/c in the tiny window, one closet for the two of them, bathroom down the hall. The buzz of move in day was not unlike what will be going on in dorms all across American in another month or so. New bedding, clip on lights, fans, shower shoes, the whole thing. If I didn’t know better, I could convince myself that it was *my* moving day, or her freshman moving day. Could’ve been 23 years ago — or four years from now. Just as my parents did on my first day of college, I left my girl with her schedule for orientation and her schedule for the next two weeks. She hugged me goodbye, and nodded sagely when I repeated the same things I told her every day as she got on the school bus (“Be smart, be wise, be kind to all you meet.”) And then we went our separate ways — she, back into the old dorm to await the “ice breaker” portion of the afternoon, and I, back to the car to head home to the other awaiting monkeys.

The first child is an interesting force in a mother’s life. Although all of her children are unique, the first child is who actually teaches the woman to be a mother. Before getting pregnant with the first, you have no idea what your body will or won’t do. After that first pregancy, you have a barometer for what is “normal” for you. That first baby’s birth sets the stage for all other births — did you have a c? Can you VBAC? How long was labor?

That first baby’s personality molds who you are as a mother. Did you have a colicky baby? Then you learned coping mechanisms that I didn’t need to. Did you have a sleeper? Then perhaps you learned to be laid back and relaxed, or perhaps you were nervous and hovered over the crib, checking for a rising and falling chest.  Did you have a cooperative toddler? Or one who power struggled? It is amazing how such a small force – – 8 lbs 8 oz — can shape and mold the adults around her!

As for me, our  first child was, and is, a pretty easy going child. She and I learned about the value of scheduling and routine, to the point where she would take herself upstairs for a nap (or “quiet time”) when lunch was over. (I’d be cleaning up the dishes and turn to see her heading upstairs for naptime.) She modeled discipline: when we told her she had to leave her nuk (pacifier) in her room if she wanted to keep it (she was probably 3 at the time), she readily agreed but would take breaks during the day to head upstairs and “take a hit” off the nuk…and she never brought it downstairs.

She wasn’t — and really, still isn’t — terribly silly and was hard to make laugh. But oh, when she laughed, it was (and is) a glorious sound. She really means it. And that taught me, as a mother, to relish the times when she laughed, and to really be present for those moments.

She wasn’t nervous today about being dropped off for her 2 week program. It is her first time away from home, and she knows no one there. But her demeanor reminds me that such new experiences are invaluable, are a part of growing up, and that she is well prepared for them. As her mother, I’m awed that she’s got such self-assurance at almost-14. I don’t think I had that. As her mother, I’m grateful, and as her mother I’m proud of her. And as her mother, I’m going to miss her these next two weeks!

Things I love today (Thursday), and every day.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’ve been reflecting over the past week or more about my children growing up, my role as a parent, and how we’ve all changed so much in the past 14 years. I think it was prompted by Julia Roberts’s appearance on Oprah last week, where she was rhapsodizing about the loveliness that are her children, the loveliness that is her life with them at home in New Mexico. Listening to her, I felt a little bit sorry for myself, because she was just glowing with happiness (but I guess it could’ve been the Lancome makeup as she’s now the spokesmodel) about how terrific it is to have 3 kids under 5 — how they all get along, love each other and things at her house are just so idyllic.

I almost never glow with happiness (nor Lancome). Although things are better now that the four children are in school full days and we’re not together every waking moment, I don’t really recall a time when my home life was worth glowing about. Don’t get me wrong — we live a charmed life, and I do know that. No one is sick, injured, or needing any kind of special care. My husband has a great job which allows me to stay home — if that’s what I want to do (and for now it is) — and he has good job security. With all that’s going on in the world, I know that there is nothing for me to complain about.

But still. I hear someone rhapsodize about how fantastic it is to be a parent, about how great everything is, and I wonder,  “What is wrong with me?” I don’t think I can rhapsodize. I get too aggravated by repeating the same things over and over and over again (“your lunchbox goes on the counter when you come in from school,” is a great example. We have 2 more days of school lunches, and STILL I am saying this. Clearly, I live the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result).

I recognize that I need an attitude adjustment. So here, in honor of “Things I Love Thursday,” are some thoughts on “Things I Love” (with a nod to my cousin ASL who uses the “Thing” label freely with her own offspring):

Thing 4: He is my “baby” but I don’t think of him as such. He is growing up too fast, too soon, because he has the influences of his older sibs to rush the whole process. He has the longest eyelashes in the world, and the cutest freckles across his nose. He can raise one eyebrow independent of the other. He still likes me to read out loud to him at night (current selection is the classic Judy Blume, SuperFudge), likes to wear pajamas (instead of large t-shirts and weird sweatpants), and doesn’t like to brush his teeth. His giggle is infectious — particularly when he is acting his age and not his father’s waist size. He represents his Irish heritage well — he’s always got a story to tell. I adore him.

Thing 3: He is my first introduction to “Son” after having two girls. The fairest of the fair, with bright blue eyes, blonde hair and blonde blonde blonde eyebrows (like me!), he best manifests my genes (finally! one of them does!). He’s got a great smile (that will need signficant orthodontia, I’m told) and a sly wit. For a while he was known (quietly) as Eczema Boy after many months of rashiness as an infant that was *finally* diagnosed as a milk allergy, but now he’s known (less quietly) as Rash Boy since he remains susceptible to weird marks, bites and sunburns. Although we had a bit of a rough start in terms of the Whininess Levels, he has grown into an easygoing child who doesn’t let too much rattle him. (Science test? What science test?) He’s fun to be around. I adore him.

Thing 2: She teaches me every day that just because you have one daughter, all girls are not the same. Just when I thought I had this parenting gig down (and was pretty confident about it), she came along and upended my apple cart. In the best way. She’s all curls and happiness, even now as an adolescent. When she was little, her voice sounded like your grandmother’s — the grandma who enjoyed a Pall Mall with her morning coffee and rye on the rocks at Happy Hour. One eye is brown and one eye is blue. This sums up her personality too — one minute the world is a fantastic place, and the next everything is awful. (Mood swings? Not really. Just super highs and super lows. Is that a mood swing?) When she was a baby and we were spending some time at the Jersey Shore, a neighbor called my mom to ask, “Is everything ok over there? I’ve heard a baby crying for hours.” Everything was fine, it was just Baby Girl 2 in residence. She has the biggest heart and the smartiest brain. She’s sensitive and loving, with a keen sense of justice. She’s got a great sense of humor and a deep belly laugh that is the most beautiful of sounds. She’ll be president of her class or running the school — one of the two. Everyone tells me how great she is. I adore her.

Thing 1: She’s turning into someone who’s not really a Thing anymore — she’s almost 14. Next year she’ll be in high school, and I’m not sure how that happened. She was my City Baby — born when we lived in a small brownstone in Hoboken. She walked to the small bodegas, the bookstore, and the park with me. She talked to everyone and her best friend was a bulldog named Jake. Her first non-mama word was “helicopter” when she was 12 months old, and when she was 18 months old if you asked her how old she was she’d say, “I’ll be two in August.” She grew into a quiet soul, who taught herself to knit, loves to write and read, and watches all that vampire stuff on the CW. I think she is the most like me — she’s the better parts of me — smart and snarky, quick with a comment or wry observation. Like me when I was her age, I think her best days are still ahead of her — college and beyond — and sometimes when she’s patient with me I’m able to tell her that. She’s thoughtful and kind, and very very smart. I adore her.

Attitude adjustment complete.

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