playing our song

My relationship with my husband didn’t begin in the most conventional way. We met in what was basically a religious cult, and grew to be good friends over time. Around five years later, he began to show some interest romantically, but I wasn’t feeling it yet. Another couple of years later, I finally came to my senses and we were married a year later. I definitely love my husband dearly, but I’m not what one would consider an overly touchy-feely soft and gooey person. I’m practical. I’m not all that into PDA and I’m definitely not a lovey romantic. I feel bad for him, because he is definitely a romantic in his way, but our relationship has always been one of best friends at the foundation with some romance sprinkled on top every now and again.

Way, way back in the beginning he began singing “our song” to me. Actually, he sang three lines of our song to me and then it would always trail off into humming. I’d never heard the song, and hand to god, I’ve always thought he just made it up. He’s always insisted it was a real song, but I had never heard anything that sounded remotely like it, and I just thought he was mixing up something he’d heard once upon a time and put his own spin to it- which was equally great to me. It’s a sweet little tune and early in our marriage he’d sing or hum it to me all the time. Now, it’s usually when he grabs me in the kitchen and slow dances me around or if he knows I need a little chuckle. Do you SEE what a loving romantic I’m married to and how it’s so sad that I’m such a cold fish?! Poor sap.

I’ve been noticing that as we’re getting older and the kids are growing up and life is settling down more, I definitely have become more sentimental and maybe even a little gooey – if only every great once in a while. This week; however, I fear I may have fallen head over heels totally, madly in love with this man. Smitten. Sixteen and a half years later, and he finally got to me.

A few weeks ago we were driving and all of a sudden I heard a very familiar tune. It was the song. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock! He just kept laughing at me and telling me he knew it was real. I was in such disbelief that I didn’t even listen to all the words, we just kept laughing and it was honestly just so surreal. Earlier this week, I flippantly mentioned that I wish I could hear the song again because I wanted to hear the actual words (still thinking he’d made up his own version, haha!)

Yesterday I was in the shower, and I hear him come in and start setting up his music. He always listens to music when he’s in the shower, and I never do. For a split second I was giving an eye roll that he was messing up my quiet time with his music. Then, I heard the tune. I opened the curtain to see him give me a little twinkle-eyed grin, and we both chuckled.  I stood in my shower listening to that song with tears streaming down my face.  It’s like that song was written for us. He’s been carrying around this song in his heart for seventeen years, and I’m just hearing it for the first time. I can’t explain why, but it’s exactly what I needed right now.

Our marriage has always been rock solid. We had to fight for it, and we’ve certainly had our share of battles to overcome over the years. They’ve always brought us closer, and we have always been best friends but sometimes the lovey romance gets lost in the shuffle. Hearing that song, and knowing that this is what he’s been singing to me in his heart all these years has left me in a puddle. It’s nothing short of a gift to my soul right now. Even after seventeen years, our love can be renewed and deepened by one simple act- one simple song. That’s probably the best gift I’ve ever been given. I didn’t even know I needed it, but it’s like a cold drink of water on the hottest day- just the fresh start that I needed for this season of our life.

Thanks to some guy named Sammy Kershaw for singing our song.

(I know that this is just a mush-fest display of affection that is super out of character for me, but I just needed to get it out there.)

it’s about to get real REAL around here

In an effort to undo approximately 12 years of all but ruining my children in the area of personal responsibility, I have recently launched Operation Grow Up. Don’t tell them. They don’t know about it yet. They think I’ve just turned into an evil witch determined to destroy their lives.

Okay, in all seriousness, my 16 and 13 year olds might be a teeny-tiny bit behind what some would advise for personal motivation and self-discipline. If there is one thing I am not going to release onto the world it’s people who can’t take care of themselves in a pinch. So, this summer we are going to work a little extra on some life-skills development. I’m already equal parts looking forward to it and dreading the ever-living shit out of it. I’m looking forward to imparting my vast wisdom of how to actually survive at life, and I am loathing the idea of how much push-back and whining is about to ensue. I’m sure some of the activities are going to be borderline fun for one of them, but I’m positive the fun isn’t going to last more than 5 minutes.

Here’s some things I’m planning to work on:
For the 16 (who plans to get a summer job, but at the very least will be babysitting for cash)

  • Apply and interview for jobs
  • Open and manage a checking account (yikes. I’m most scared of this one.)
  • Develop a personal budget and *fingers crossed* actually follow it
  • Learn to change a tire and other car/driver related things that I’m still working on
  • Email etiquette – practiced by taking over communication with college contacts!

For the 13 (who, up to this point, hardly cleans his room and unloads the dishwasher with any regular success. ugh.)

  • Learn to do laundry and begin doing his own from now till forever
  • Basic money management
  • Basic cleaning skills- things like strip, wash and replace sheets. sweep and mop (thoroughly!) and similar tasks.
  • Purchase gas and fill the car tank
  • Wash and clean cars – inside and out

Tasks to work on together (read also: learning better teamwork with people who think differently than you)

  • Meal planning, budgeting and shopping. I’m thinking Elle will be the boss and supervise Jordan, but I’m also wanting him to plan and execute a week of lunches and her a week of dinner.
  • Basic table and social etiquette
  • If we survive this, I will think of other similar tasks. 🙂

This might seem small and silly to some, but this will probably take all of my mental energy for the summer, ha! I just need these kids to realize a few things:

  1. The things that magically happen in their world on a daily basis while they’re at school or at play aren’t done by magical fairies. It’s hard and thankless work, and it requires sacrifice.
  2. Accomplishing those things also provides a great deal of personal satisfaction and pride in your work ethic if you do them well.

Cross your fingers for us. It might be a bumpy ride this summer.

first grade

I became a helicopter mom in the first grade. Okay, obviously I did not become a mother in the first grade, and we all know there were no helicopter moms in the 80’s, but the foundation was definitely laid that year. My destiny was determined by a series of unfortunate events and a skewed sense of reality.

You know how you have those weird memories of your childhood that are just a perfect snapshot, detailing every tiny nuance? If you ask me to provide that amount of detail about what I had for breakfast just this morning it would be impossible. Ask about the first grade Christmas gift exchange party of 1983, and I’ve got you. I think I’ve recounted parts of this story before, but my perspective on it has certainly changed over the past few years.

My first grade year started with Ms. Pam. She must have been pretty pregnant already, because by Christmas she was out on maternity leave. Miss Kelly came in as a long-term sub, and I’m just now realizing that these are the only two teachers I ever had that went by their first names. It must have been their youth. A short time before the holidays, I’m sure there was some announcement about a Christmas party complete with gift exchange. I remember drawing names for a fellow student to buy for, and the rule of a maximum price tag on the gift. I’m 99% sure my mom and I did the shopping the night before the party. I have no idea what I bought my classmate, or even Miss Kelly, but the gift for Ms. Pam is etched in my brain forever.

We wandered the aisles of Walmart for quite a while, searching for the perfect gift for Ms. Pam. I remember my mom asking me repeatedly how much we were allowed to spend on the gifts and my response being somewhere between $.50 and $5. I don’t know. It was certainly difficult to find something suitable in that price range. I’m sure I had the details wrong, whatever the number I came up with, because I just remember it being quite the ordeal to find that perfect gift.  Finally I found a tiny red candle that was in a white ceramic dish and smelled strongly of cinnamon. I think it had a lid with a heart or angel on top of it, but that part’s a little fuzzy. I remember being really excited to take it to the party and bestow it upon my teacher. I think she was the first pregnant woman I really knew, and she was magical to me.

The next day at the party, once all the gifts were exchanged and kids were bouncing around on sugar highs, I overheard the two teachers talking in concerned teacher voices. Being the ever curious child I was, I listened in to the conversation without their knowing. After hearing bits and pieces of their chat, I realized they were talking about me and the gifts I had brought to the exchange. Ms. Pam had received some very generous gifts, that even my six year old brain had deduced were NOT within the set price range- a handmade baby blanket being the one that stands out most. They were questioning my homelife and wondering what was going on and the stability of my family.

Well into my adulthood, whenever I recalled this memory I would get the same pit in my stomach. I felt embarrassed- less than the other kids, and that same red hot feeling of shame would wash over me. I hated those teachers. I hated them for making me feel like my gift was less than the others that they received. I hated that my mom wasn’t at that party when so many of the other moms were, and that I was left to just feel those feelings all alone. Later, I hated that she didn’t know the details and expected a six year old to know and how that ended up causing me a lot of hurt. And I still hate the smell of cinnamon candles.

A few years ago, when I looked back on that conversation between two teachers, I realized that they weren’t gossipping about a kid who couldn’t afford to bring a decent gift for the teacher.  They were having one of those conversations that concerned adults do when something seems off about a kid. They weren’t aware that I had misunderstood the rules of the exchange and told my mom that we couldn’t spend more on the teacher. They picked up on the fact that my mom, who was working no less than two jobs to support our severely messed up family, was most definitely not in tune with the goings on in the first grade. They saw past the precocious teacher’s pet and found a hurting little girl who was living in a world of alcoholism and abuse from a dad that wasn’t fit to care for a child, and a mom who was working so hard to put food on the table she didn’t have a clue about much of anything that was going on in my life.

Something happened to me in that stupid party, and for years and years of class parties and school events without a parent in sight after that. As seems to be the case with much of my generation, I swung so far in the opposite direction it might have become a little unbalanced. When my kids entered school, I was present for every single possible moment. I was working part-time, but I made sure that I was always there for every meet the teacher, class party, ice cream social, drop-off-to-pick-up moment. I would break laws to make sure I was one of the first parents to the pick up line and that no child would ever be forgotten or picked up late on my watch. Once I went to work full-time, I made sure Jim was on the same page. I would call him (and still sometimes do, much to his annoyance) to make sure he didn’t get so busy in his day that he lost track of time. When they were in daycare, I was a mess. I was neurotic to the point that I eventually quit working full time and became a work from home mom. The decision wasn’t consciously made because of my issues (Jordan really struggled in daycare,) but I’m pretty sure my neurosis did not help my children in any way. Once I was a full-time mom I volunteered in classrooms, chaperoned field trips, dropped off forgotten items, brought in birthday lunches and cupcakes, provided the BEST teacher gifts for every holiday and teacher appreciation day, did much of the work on science fair projects and on and on and on.  I got a little better in middle school, but I still volunteered more than the average parent. And then somewhere along the way, I just got really tired.

More recently than I’d like to admit, I realized that my behavior was just not okay. My kids don’t have the ability to grow if I don’t let them out of this tiny little pot I planted them in. They don’t live in a home where dad is abusive and mom can’t manage to take on any more responsibility. They are nurtured. They have security and stability. They just need more room to grow. Now I fear that my hovering tendencies have done too much damage and they will never leave this nest fully developed. Whenever I want to claw my eyes out in frustration that they seem unable to fully take responsibility for much of anything, I blame myself on a whole new level. Mom-Guilt is the actual freaking worst! Somehow we will all find our way through this, of that I am ultimately determined, but I’ve got to tell you- this really really sucks. Find a balance people. As early as you possibly can- find a freaking balance somewhere between that little girl at the gift exchange and wherever the heck we are right now. 🙂