Independence is Good, Mom

My friend moved back into the neighborhood where we met more than 40 years ago, and recently described how the quiet streets where we roamed have opened up a new-found independence for her daughters too. Her girls ride their bikes to the pool like we did, walk to restaurants for lunch, stop in at the grocery store for snacks like we did, and sometimes don’t come home until after 10 at night. It’s summer after all. And she is excited for them, because she remembers how much fun we had at their age.

Soon after, my sisters were re-telling a story about a funny walk home from the same grocery store, now remodeled and shinier. We laugh every time we remember it, and top that one with other oft-remembered suburban adventures with each other and our friends.

But our mom worries that too many of our stories were unbeknownst to her. She wonders aloud, in fact, if she was the engaged, good mother she thought she was.

Silly wonderings of every mom – jennswonderings  – as our children grow up. Was I a good mom? Did I guide them well? Did they know how much I loved them?

What she forgets, as she worries, is that our stories are happy ones. That we look back on our childhoods with humor. That as sisters, our stories were shared ones in which we all played a part for much longer than most.

Our mom trusted us to go out into the world and play. So, she missed a few things. That, at some point, was her job.

My hope for my kids is supposed to be that as I let them loose to play in the world, they will have fun stories that I won’t remember because I wasn’t there. Yet such letting go breaks my heart. I want to be part of their days, laughing, listening.

And I worry that as they collect their own stories, my stories will be less … less everything… because three sweet boys are not always in them.

Third Grade Homework

Last night, my nine year old was struggling with long division again. I knew he was tired, so I stayed close in case he got frustrated. Plus, there was the spelling test to study for, and although he was getting “bruise” consistently, he kept messing up “cruise”. And we weren’t getting anywhere with “reduce”.

The expected “UGH!” came.

He was able to translate the word problem into an equation, but couldn’t remember the process he needed to go through to find the answer.

He slid the paper over to me, and I could tell he was on the verge of exploding with rage. But as I started to talk him through the steps, he took a long, deep breath, then placed his hand on my arm ever so gently.

“Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings,” his voice was quiet and his big brown eyes filled with pity. “I know you’re trying to help, but you’re making it harder, and it’s driving me crazy.”

So, I slid the paper back and watched with a big smile on my face while he finished his math.

Door Prize

My son taped a new sign to his bedroom door in a fit of rage against mom for saying that riding one’s scooter back and forth outside a neighbor’s house with a baseball ready to throw at him was “acting like a bully.”

“No Moms!” said the door.

When his rage cooled two days later, he dragged me down the hall to show me his change of heart. Smiling, he waved his hand at the door as if presenting me with a great prize.

rage-door-photo

At least it is a green sercole for now.

That Was Actually Funny, He Said

My teenager and I were sitting on the steps with the dog. It has been a dry winter, and with more than a week of warm February weather, everyone is watering. At our house, the sprinkler needed a quick fix in the yard after it fell off the hose when my son moved it from one spot to another. “I can’t get it back on.”

I was putting my shoes on to help out and hoping the dog poop had been picked up before he had watered the grass. ”If you don’t pick the poop up first, then it’s gross to pick up when the grass is wet.”

“It wasn’t me,” he said. “Dad started it. Blame Dad.”

So, I belted out a little South Park “Blame Canada!”

He chuckled. “Mom, that was actually funny… and surprising.”

“Didn’t think I had any South Park in me, did ya?”

Long Division

Dear third grader,

Long division is hard. Besides potty-training and reading, it might be the toughest challenge you have ever faced. It is especially awful when you imagine that Mom is doing it wrong.

Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Divide. Multiply. Carry down a zero. Subtract. Repeat until you hit a number smaller than your original divisor.

Because if you imagine that Mom is making stuff up, you’re going to invent a new way of doing division that gets you to the incorrect answer. And it is likely going to take you longer to get there. And then after all that effort and brain power and creativity that you just dedicated to dividing one number by another, you are going to freak out. Cry. Scream. Stomp your feet. Run out of the room.

“You think I’m stupid!” will be followed by “Then you think my teacher is stupid!”

And you will still have to come back later to finish your homework.

So while I will definitely slide off the “I know this” platform after a few more years of math, I promise I will admit it when the time comes. For now, though, stick with me. You will get this, because you are all about effort and brain power and creativity… and we make a great team.

Divide. Multiple. Carry down the zero. Subtract.

I love you, sweet man,

Mom

Boys in the House

I grew up in a house of girls, where our games tended to stay within a single room.

But on Thursday afternoon, five boys were racing across my yard and from the basement to the bedrooms for two hours in an “epic” Nerf gun battle. When the house grew silent, I knew they were on a stealth mission, sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent who thought their hiding place of the moment remained safe. Then minutes later the eruption of noise, Nerf pellets hitting boy. Screams of half-fear, half-delight.

It was only when I saw my third grader on his new electric scooter, speeding toward our intersection, Nerf gun pointed over his shoulder and eyes on his older brother chasing him, that I felt I needed to intervene.

Mom rules. No scooters in battle. No battles in the intersection. No scooter until you actually look both ways.

Then I left for Parent-Teacher conferences, my fourteen year old in charge, worried I would be late because I insisted on watching my son put the scooter away.

I sat down. Took a breath. Started the conference with “I just left five boys alone at home in a Nerf gun war. Bad parenting?”

The teacher laughed, “That’s probably exactly what they need.”

Friday with no school, the battles continued. Again on Saturday afternoon with additional weapons. Rosy cheeks, sweaty foreheads, teamwork, strategy and lots of “you got me! you got me!” But definitely no scooters.

Mom v Boy Mini Golf

I won the first game. Putted for under par, but the second game was going badly. My third grader got a hole in one on the first green, then I was a disaster on the second. By the third he was ahead by five.

“Mom, you just need to relax. That’s what I do. Then you’ll stop playing so badly.”

By the fifth hole, he was feeling really good.

“Mini golf. Miniature golf. Putt-putt. Why isn’t it a professional sport? It’s not fair to people who are really good at it. I would totally be a professional putt-putter!”

Remember, he lost the first game against his mom.