The Season of Letting Go

That seems to be the season I'm in right now.

Letting go.  Letting go of one kid, who turned 18 a month ago, and is testing the strength of our mother/child bond every day.  Letting go of him means allowing myself the luxury of admitting that he is not perfect, and is not going to do things by the book.  Letting go of him doesn't mean I've stopped loving him...in fact, quite the opposite:  my letting go of him means I love him so much I realize this is what I have to do.  Now I understand how the mama bird feels when she gently (or maybe not so gently) nudges her fledgling out of the nest.  That's the only way they'll ever learn how to fly.

Letting go.  Letting go of another kid, my baby...who is leaving elementary school this year and is on his way to The Next Step.  That means letting go of my role as Elementary School Mom, a role I've played for 13 years.  That's one year longer than I played the role of Wife.  My "older" friends, meaning friends who have already left elementary school behind them, have been advising me over the years, advising me about this somewhat traumatic dissolution between mother and school.  "When it's time, you'll be ready", they all said. 

And they're right.  I'm ready.  I realized this during the last PTO meeting I sat through, and I watched a few of us old battleaxes raise our hands and offer suggestions and make motions.  And then I watched the new batch of mommies, all eager and YOUNG and fresh and did I mention YOUNG?  I watched them and realized that this is how it's meant to be.  Time to make room for the new ones, like the moms before us did.  I flashbacked to one of my first PTO meetings, I was pregnant with William and sat next to another mom who was gently rocking  her newborn baby girl in a carseat.  It was one of the few nights I was able to go out, on my own, and there I was in the stuffy library (we call it the "media center" now), dazed at the organizational and communication skills these veteran moms were displaying like peacocks in full plumage.   

Letting go.  Letting go of the fantasy that my kids will be kids forever.  How is it that life can turn so quickly, that those never-ending days have somehow shot by faster than a speeding bullet?  I remember when I got pregnant with baby number four, someone with a not quite firm grasp on the concept of tact asked me, "Why on earth would you have another baby?" and before I could stop myself I answered "Job security."

Letting go.  Letting go of the anger and the sadness and the frustration over being left.  I like to talk big about how I'm so over it, and how I'm getting my groove back and how I am like the mythical Honey Badger (warning, NSFW or kids) in that I don't give a shit. 

But the reality is, sometimes it takes a while for wounds to heal.  And although mine may appear to be healing up quite nicely, thank you, there are still some tender spots.  They say that on average, it takes about five years to get over a divorce.  I'm a few months behind that statistic, but then again, my divorce has had a few restarts over the years.  It's still rearing its ugly head, and I see now that my proclamation to Big Daddy, all those years ago when he first left, that "this will change things, forever" was right.  Nothing is the same, and nothing will ever be the same.  I know someday, I will see a text from him and not wince, and I will someday listen to the kids talk about something they did at "his" house and not feel like someone just kicked me in the stomach.  That someday is long overdue.  I need to let go of whatever phantom weight  is on my shoulders, whatever invisible chains I have decided to wrap around myself like a female, middle aged version of Jacob Marley. 

Letting go.  I need to let go, in order to go on. 


One Shade of Gray...

My friend Faith (yes, my former Wellness Coach...I was a terrible coachee!) recently posted a link to an article about women going gray (you can read it here).  Interesting read, and very timely for me.  You see, I am at a crossroads, my friends.

I found my first gray hair in my mid thirties.  I can still recall seeing that little glint in my hair, reflected in the bathroom mirror.  I don't remember if I had much, if any, reaction to seeing it...knowing me, I probably muttered "Awesome" or something as I yanked that sucker out.  And yanking was how I dealt with the grays for the next few years.

You can guess how that went, right?  One gray hair was quickly followed by another, until I had to choose between going bald and *gulp* going under the dye nozzle.  Since this was during the time of my life when I had some disposable income, I chose to dye.  And I did it in high style...went to the local Aveda salon where my cut/color appointments set me back $140 every six weeks (hey, I got cucumber water AND a hand massage, girls).  But, like L'Oreal says, I was worth it.  My stylist, Andrea, made my hair look so good.  She created a color just for me, and it was like brownie batter infused with caramel.

Then I became poor.  The salon appointments became a thing of the past, and I became a do-it-yourself colorist.   

And it showed.  Because, let's face it:  box color is...well...box color.  It's like using a Sharpie to color your hair...one dimensional, ya know?

Which brings us to today.  I guess I am blessed with what the Colour Experts call "stubborn grays", which makes sense given that they sprout from a very obstinate skull.  Color applied to my tresses only lasts a couple of weeks, sometimes less.  It's getting to the point where the upkeep just isn't worth the trouble.

But here's the deal:  I am struggling with the thought of going au naturale. Why?  I know several women who have eschewed the coloring and look absolutely gorgeous with their silver 'dos.  In fact, one of my very best homies, Danielle, has what I consider to be THE most beautiful head of hair, period.   So why am I so hesitant to JUST PUT THE BOTTLE DOWN and walk away? 

I think I'm scared that it's going to put me at an even bigger disadvantage in the dating game.  I know, I know...I'm not even playing that game right now but who knows...I may change my mind in the near future.  And I worry that with all the strikes already against me (big fatty, broke ass, a corral of "spirited" children), having gray hair may be another one. 

I can hear a couple of you right this second:  But Jenny!!  If a man wouldn't want you for who you are, who cares about him?!?!  I agree!  Wholeheartedly.  I guess my loony-tunes insecurities are still alive and well. Who knows, though...maybe coming clean with the world about who I really am, instead of using a chemically-enhanced cloak of color to pretend I'm something I'm not...maybe that's something I need to do. (was that the most painfully extended sentence or what?  I think I have a Charley horse in my eye just from reading it). 

Just for giggles, I Googled "Going gray" and read up on the subject.  The good news is, that there is a lot of positiveness out there on the subject.  But when you look at the real barometer of public opinion, the almighty comment sections, you get a little different picture.  Based on my very unscientific observation, the public seems to be almost evenly divided on the subject of Gray Hair on Non-Granny types.  Lots of men replied that gray hair ages a woman, washes her out, makes her look dowdy and matronly.  Surprisingly, lots of women feel that way, too.  The silver lining (ha)?  Just about as many men reported that they think the gray/silver/white hair on women in their 30's and 40's is great, and dare I say, attractive. 

I think it boils down to a few things:  you absotively, posolutely have to have a great haircut.  You need to take care of your skin, because with the lighter hair, the face seems to be almost highlighted.  Make up needs to be adjusted, too.  That's another thing my sweet Silver Senorita, Danielle, does with flair.  Girl is naturally beautiful, and is gifted with the magic eyeshadow touch.  And I also think (but I could be wrong here), that once you are a platinum person, your wardrobe colors may need some redoing. 

Right now I am going on month nine without a haircut, and on any given day I look like the love child of Golda Meir and Michelle Duggar.  So if I'm going to seriously entertain this little experiment, the first thing I'll need to do is get sheared. 

In the meantime, though, I will be keeping my eyes open for more inspiring examples of women who have cut the color.  And I'd love to hear your opinions, ladies.  Are you Team Silver?  Let me know!


Are you Mom Enough? Bitch, please.

So...unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few days, you have undoubtedly seen this picture:

I'll tell you what..I'm finding that reading what other people have to say about this picture has proven to be much more entertaining than the article (I'm guessing...of course I haven't read the article.  I still haven't finished reading The Help, ladies). 

Lots and lots of panties bunched up into big knots.  Can I tell you something?  Part of the beauty of being an older mom, a veteran mom, a jaded mom is that stuff like this doesn't really tweak me out much anymore.  My first reaction upon seeing this photo was some bitterness about how skinny the mom in the picture was.  And that her boobs still resembled boobs. 

If I were to pose for that picture?  Let's just say the kid wouldn't need the chair.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that if I were still a nursing mom, I'd have perfected the art of room-to-room breastfeeding.  By the time I got to the fourth kid, I had enough mammary dexterity that I could pretty much lay flat on my back and still manage to nurse a baby laying somewhere in my bed. 

But enough about me...back to this hot topic.  Apparently, the woman on the cover is an "attachment" parenting champion.  Back in my day, we jokingly called this being the mom to a "Velcro" baby but that was before every freaking thing under the sun had to have a name and blogs and books and websites.  Attachment parenting is where you have almost unlimited physical contact with your baby/child.  Nursing until the child weans him/herself, co-sleeping and wearing your baby via a carrier or (preferably) a sling. 

Which is all well and good.  I think you just need to do whatever it takes to get you and your kid(s) through the day, and eventually, through their childhoods somewhat intact.

I did a tiny bit of research about the chick on the cover.  She's a blogger (find her blog here).  She is a homeschooling/travelschooling (??) mom based in Los Angeles.  She's under 30.  She has two kids, one of whom is adopted, the other one is the person attached to her breast on the Time cover.  I've read some of her blog, and didn't really pick up a whole lotta controversy or hot button issue stuff.  She also did a blog post for BlogHer (find that one here).  So I'm kind of unclear about how/why she ended up on the cover of Time.  I think I need it spelled out for me or something...is she an Attachment Parenting zealot?  A Nursing Nazi?  Or is there some new blend of Momvocate that hasn't made its way from the west coast to the great Midwest yet? 

What I think: 

I think that you can do everything perfectly right, to the T, go to all the right classes, read all the right books, get the best pediatrician/lactation consultant/baby whisperer you can; and it's still kind of a crap shoot.  Human beings are so complicated, so intricately wired, so delicate, that we can't ever know if what we're doing is right or if it's going to screw them up. 

I think it's a shame that women still find the need to tear each other apart.  I see some of this in my own group of friends and acquaintances and have found myself dangerously close to judging.  You know how I stop myself?  I have to remind me that it's not my damn business.  There's a very fine line between judgment and showing concern.  Or "voicing an opinion".  I'd hate to hear what people say about my kids or how my parenting may have affected them, but you know what?  It doesn't really matter.  At the end of the day, it's me and my kids.  I can tell you that I guess I practiced Attachment Parenting with all four of my kids (varying degrees, of course but still did the Three Pillars) and they are turning into four very different people with wildly different temperaments, gifts, and flaws. 

I think Time magazine picked that very picture in order to stir up some controversy and definitely for some attention.  Well played, Time.  Well played.  Your numbers will most likely be as perky as the boobies the cover.

And lastly:

I think that poor kid is going to need some serious therapy in a few years.  My kids get embarrassed when I tag them in a post on facebook, for God's sake.  I cannot imagine the fallout I'd see if I made them suckle for the cover of a magazine.  I think that is the worst, most incendiary thing about that cover.

Mom enough?  I think so. 


Ten on Tuesday Wednesday

Weak post title, I know! But I'm recovering from a little bug so you'll have to bear with me.  William and I went to see my friend's son play baseball last night, and in the middle of the game I was hit with a massive case of The Chills.  You know those awful, teeth-chattering, can't-get-warm chills?  Yuck.  Went home to find my Molly having a massive Hulk Smash meltdown because our freaking internet was down again (Comcast, get ready...I am on you like white on rice, bitches).  So as I'm wandering around the house, thermometer wedged in my armpit and every joint in my body aching, Molly is literally making the walls of the house shake with her rage.  Apparently I control the interweb at our house.  (I also know where your shoes are, but that's a story for another time)

So, teeth a-chatterin', I call my BFF and see if we can run over to borrow her internet.  No problem, she says, and I take Hulk over there, my upper lip sweating and my hips aching like I'm 90 years old.  So Molly finishes her project while my BFF and I play a game of Uno with her three angels.  And her angels were fighting and swearing and being all kid-like, which, strangely, made me feel better.  Props to her middle child for making me guffaw when he called his younger sister "Helen Keller".  That one has a great sense of humor. We also had a glass of wine (isn't it "drown a fever, starve a cold"??) which didn't make me feel any better but took the edge off.

I would be lost without my hens.  Seriously.  Every single day I make sure to say a little thanks to the gods that be for putting these lovelies in my life.

So let's get to the ten:

1.  Do you know the first rule of Single Parent Club?  It's that there IS no Single Parent Club.  Second rule is, YOU AIN'T GOT TIME TO BE SICK.  Seriously.  Last night reminded me of when I had pneumonia a few years back.  Big Daddy stood outside my front door, while I was hacking so hard it felt like my innards were going to pop out of my nether-regions, and said, "Well, let me know if you need anything."  And then proceeded to walk back to his car.  Without taking the kids.  That was the moment I knew I was truly on my own.

2.  Our school carnival was last Friday, and for the 5th year in a row I spent the entire night in the kitchen serving up corn dogs and hot dogs and walking tacos to the fine families that make up our student body.  And once again, found myself having to resist the urge to climb up over the counter and ram a corn dog up some bastard's butt.  Seriously...how big do your balls have to be in order for you to stand there, in front of parent volunteers serving up hot food, and bitch about how long it's taking for your vegan corn dog to cook?  Here's an idea, you pompous, entitled, Napoleon-complex riddled ass...next year YOU volunteer.  So I can show up and stare at you with thinly veiled contempt and fill my gaping pie-hole with popcorn and tell the rest of the "customers" in line how shitty the service is.  I know who you are...check yourself before you wreck yourself, short stuff.

3.  Saw The Avengers and once again left a movie theater questioning my sexuality.  Let's just say that if there is ever another lovah in my life, here's to hoping he doesn't freak out too bad when I pull out the kids' old "Hulk Hands" from a few Christmases ago.  Mark Ruffalo is a sexy Hulk.

4.  Remember Pinterest?  Me neither.  Or maybe it's just me.  Is it still really popular?  I just don't have the time to keep up (says the lady who has watched all 10 seasons of Friends, including the 45 minute gag reel, in the past four weeks).

5.  Being home sick, I've decided to watch some daytime t.v.  I stumbled upon "The View", which I had only known previously from little clips here and there on the internet.  Holy hell.  How are these shrieking banshees able to have their own show?  Am I the only one who actually had bleeding ears after listening to these harpies over-talk each other for ten minutes?  And then Barbara Walters, who I think is actually a pretty kick ass lady, sitting there like Aunt Edna propped up on Clark Griswold's station wagon...this was more than I could take.  I had to change the channel and amazingly found an episode of Law and Order to calm my nerves. /sarcasm. 

6.   How am I just now hearing about John Travolta and his penchant for masseurs?  Oh, that's right.  Because WHO CARES?  But still...really, John?  Ewww.  On the bright side, dude is a good tipper.

7.  I've been going over the Charlie drama for the past 24 hours.  And after talking to some hens about it, talking to Charlie about it, I've come to this conclusion:  what's done is done.  Worst case scenario is he doesn't graduate.  Worst/worst case scenario is they don't let him walk for commencement.  He will be in summer school, that's for sure.  Yesterday I called his therapist and left a message about Charlie.  I still haven't heard back from him, over 24 hours later.  I understand he's busy, but I wish someone would act like they give two hoots about my kid.  It feels like I'm the only one in his corner some days, and that's hard.  Now I'm trying to decide if I should go ahead with the graduation party plans.  On one hand, it seems phony to me.  On the other, it would be nice for Charlie to see people gathering just for him.  Opinions welcomed on this one.

8.  Baseball has started again, and thanks to my Tourette's Volunteer Syndrome I am again Team Parent.  I've done this so many years now it's practically like sleepwalking.  Only this year I find myself with a bit of a quandary:  the treat schedule.  I am not a fan of Treat Schedules.  These are 11 and 12  year old boys, and they're playing baseball.  Some games don't end until 9:30.  Call me cranky and old fashioned but I really don't think having treats is necessary.  Some of the parents disagree with me, some of them quite adamantly.  One said, "But the boys really enjoy it."  I'm like, they enjoy smelling their own farts, too.  Your point?  And so, I am making a treat schedule.  But not happily.

9.  Mother's Day is Sunday, and my BFF has suggested we sneak away to her cabin for the weekend.  I'm feeling guilt about this one, but it does sound heavenly.  Of course, her daughter (the aforementioned Helen Keller) and my daughter (the aforementioned Hulk. Noo...not Sexy Hulk, the angry Hulk Smash from the opening paragraph, silly) would come with us.  Molly hasn't seen Big Daddy since Christmas.  I ask her about it,  and the only answer I get is, "Obviously he doesn't care."  Which is a whole 'nother post.  But anyhoo...I think we'll go, and I know we'll have fun.  I used to joke that the best Mother's Day present would be for someone to take the kids away for a day.  Never thought I'd ever be the one going away.

10.  Speaking of Mother's Day, there's MY mom to consider.  Mom is essentially housebound, it takes a lot of effort to 1: convince her to get out and do something and to 2:  physically get her out of the house.  I worry that she's given up on life, and is for all intents and purposes just waiting for the end, stuck in that little room, smoking cigarettes and watching the news.  I want to make a basket for her, but I don't want it to be full of junk that she won't/can't use.  So I think I'm going to include some framed pics of the kids, some hardcore lotion, some emery boards, a couple good movies and some sort of treat.  It doesn't sound like much though...but what do you get the mom who doesn't leave her house?  Any ideas?  If I had the cash I would pay for a spa day or a day at the casino or even a Twins game, but she just doesn't do that sort of thing.  This makes me sad.  I see so many grandparents at school events, baseball games, etc. and it bums me out that she's missing out on these things.

On that chipper note, I will sign off.  There's another episode of Law and Order starting...or is it Criminal Minds?  Whatever.

Enjoy your Wednesday, people.  Hug your kids, and give your mom a squeeze, too. 


So, how have you been?

Once again I've gone missing in action, folks.  I wish I had some fantastic excuse like, I've been really busy having sexy time with a new beau, or that I've received a fantastically appropriate settlement from Big Daddy and have been preoccupied with botox appointments and long weekends at the shore. 

But no, if you know me, you know the drill. I've just been busy with life.

As I sit here typing this, I am beginning to feel my insides uncurl from the agonizingly tight knot they've been wrapped in for the past 45 minutes or so.  Yes, I'm having trouble with Charlie.  Will this ever, ever end?  We are now on our 7th hellish morning in a row.  Every effing morning I go down to get him up, and for the past seven days nothing has worked.  He's screamed at me, I've screamed at him.  He's cried, I've cried.  And like the enabling enabler that I am, I let him do this.  I drive him to school, sometimes he's remorseful on the way there, sometimes angry and brutal, other times I feel like I'm transporting a mute and brainless scarecrow.

Seven years.  That's how long this nightmarish morning routine has dragged on.  With exceptions on the weekends, vacation time and summer break, every single morning I wake up and have to brace myself for the fight ahead.  My other kids, all three of them, get up and get ready and go to school like they're supposed to. They do their homework, they get good grades, they follow the rules and do what they're told.  But Charlie, he doesn't do what he's supposed to.  I can't remember the last time we had a good conference, a good report card, a stretch of good mornings that lasted more than a week or so.

He's supposed to be graduating in less than a month.  He has used up all of his "Get out of jail free" cards with that school...cashed in every favor and then some.  As of last week, he was to miss not a single day of school...if that happened, they wouldn't allow him to graduate.  I've been the weepy mom on the phone to counselors and principals, been the angry Mama Bear fighting for my poor sad kid.  I've called the local agency that is supposed to be an advocate for kids who are outside the circle of "average" and "normal" (they didn't ever get back to me).  And today I'm feeling like there is no more I can do.

For a couple of weeks I kept my head firmly wedged in that big pile of sand I keep handy for such occasions.  I started planning a graduation party for him, made arrangements to get some pictures taken for his graduation announcements. 

But right now?  At this very moment?  I am spent. My stomach hurts, my pulse is still racing.  I can hear him clattering around downstairs, don't know if he's getting ready for his ride to school or if he's trashing the laundry room or if he's down there crying.  My thoughts turn to his father, and the rage starts to creep in.  How would it be different, I think to myself, if there was another person here helping me raise this broken child?  What if he had a strong set of shoulders to lean on, hell...what if I did?  What if there had been two parents giving a shit about this kid from the get go, rather than one slinking away with his tail between his legs and the leftover parent stretched as thin as saran wrap?

Big Daddy brought Spawn to one of William's baseball games last week.  I looked at him, for just moment, and watched the man I used to be married to lovingly hold his progeny and talk softly, sweetly to him.  I saw him pointing out the action on the field to that little product of his and Secretary's ill-begotten romance, that human being born out of a dirty cluster of lies and deceit and cruelty.  I wanted to approach him and ask him, "How long until you run away from this one?  How long before you decide he's too much work?  How can you sit here and act like you're a man, a father, in front of the children you abandoned?". He stayed for a little bit, and then left.  Left for his new life with his perfect wife and their perfect child.  Henry was at the game with me, and as we were packing up to go home I asked him, "Did you talk to your dad?".  Henry shrugged, and said, "Well, I was walking over there to say hi and he turned around and left." 

He turned around, and he left.  Sounds like the title of a Shirelles song, or maybe one by Alanis Morisette, doesn't it?  Pretty much sums things up. 

I am sitting here, taking swigs of lukewarm coffee and answering math questions with the eleven year old, while my tortured and fractured manchild lays downstairs swaddled in blankets, a pillow over his head.  In a little while I will go out into the world, my "everything is just AWESOME" face plastered over the one that has creases worn deep by worry.  I continue to volunteer for things, show up for things and try with all my might to keep life normal for the other kids while trying with every fiber in my being to hang on to the one kid who keeps drifting away with the tides. 

I know that we can get through this, he and I.  I envision a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, years away from now, where Charlie and I and his wife or girlfriend sit and talk about these days and how hard it was and how hard we fought to get through them.  In this vision Charlie is a man, a man who has tackled his issues like a linebacker and come out on the other side, victorious.  He has figured out how to quell the waves of grief that had once threatened to take him down.

But for now, in this shaky and volatile present, all I can do is wait. Wait and watch and worry. 

Sorry for the downer post, people.  I will hopefully be back later with a Ten on Tuesday.  Despite the fact that I have been dealing with this real life version of The Bell Jar, there have been some spectacularly normal and funny goings on around here. 

Life goes on.  I'm still learning that.  I just wish it wasn't such a freaking hard lesson.
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