Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom

All that I am and hope to be I owe to my mother.
- Abraham Lincoln

The Deck

Last week, Henry and I were on the back deck, just hanging out. Well, I was hanging out and he did the two-year-version of hanging out…

“Mommy, wook (look), an airplane!”
“Mommy, I heawr an airplane!”
(Run in a circle. Jump up on the bench. Hands in the pockets.)
“Oooohhh, Mommy, wook, a twee (tree)!”

As I’ve been trying to do as of late, I just enjoyed the connectedness and peace of the moment with Henry.

Then, he says,

“Mommy, who is dat?”

I look over and see our neighbor, Miss Ida, out on her back deck. A man stood with her, looking up at the sky and around her yard.

“That’s Miss Ida”, I quietly told Henry, “our neighbor.”


Miss Ida smiles and yells over the fence, “Hi Henry! Denise, this is my son, Greg.” We exchange hellos.

Miss Ida is about 90. (She was married to her first husband during World War II.) Greg is probably somewhere in his mid 60s. It struck me that although they’ve lived a lot more life than I, and now live it in different states, there Miss Ida and her son were, hanging out together on the back deck.

Mother and son, mother and son. Each on the back deck. One gently preparing to launch her son and the other tenderly receiving her son’s landing, his return home.

It was both symbolic and reassuring, knowing that even though those daily mother-son moments become less frequent in their recurrence, they continue. Continue to comfort and flow through decades and generations.

Maybe it comforts me because I am hopeful that Henry will always come home. Maybe it’s because I’ll always be his mom. And maybe it’s because he’ll always be my son, returning to the back deck, hands in his pockets, checking out the world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Four and a Half Hours

For the last two weeks, each time I pick Abby up from school, the first thing out of her mouth has been, “What did you bring for a snack?”

When my response is one that does not meet her expectations, she starts whining and almost sobbing out some story about how I said that I would bring something else, or how she doesn’t like what I brought and it's just not fair. Her reactions make me crazy.

Today, I delivered my long-coming response. I was firm, swift and direct.

“Stop complaining about the snacks I bring. I don’t have to bring snacks. Who doesn’t like Cheezits/pretzels/gold fish? You should thank me for always bringing you food. If you whine or complain one more time about the snack choice I select for you, I will stop bringing snacks.”

In hindsight, a more refined (and effective) reply might have been,

“Let’s plan out the snacks together so we can avoid this type of turmoil in the future.” (Ahhhh, hindsight….)

So, those were the first frays of the unraveling of the last 4 1/2 waking hours with my children. There were bright moments. But unfortunately, the many dark moments eclipsed the slivers of sunshine.

So, after the snack debacle, we headed to ballet. While Abby attended her lesson, Henry and I did our usual dance: Redirect. Run. Redirect. Run. When we (finally) got in the car, Abby asked what we were having for dinner. I asked what she might like to have. She requested quesadillas. Because there is a gracious God above, I had the makings for said quesadillas.

We got home. I started making quesadillas. Henry repeated “pick me up pick me up pick me up” through dripping tears when, of course, I couldn’t. Kate started coloring. When dinner was ready, I delivered tasty, REQUESTED quesadillas to the children. Kate asked if she could finish the sky on her drawing before eating. I said,


She wrapped up coloring and moved onto eating. She took a bite and spit out that bite.

“Mommy, these quesadillas are too dry.”

“Are you &*$%ing kidding me??!?!?”, I mentally retort. What I say aloud is, “What? They’re great! They’ve just cooled off.”

Big bottom lip comes to visit. Abby sits there and I watch her attempt to work herself into a large lather. “Will you,” sniffle sniffle, “please make me another quesadilla when you’ve finished eating?”

(At least her manners are impeccable.)

“Abby", I reply, "I made you exactly what you wanted for dinner. I let you finish coloring before you ate exactly what you wanted for dinner. And now you’re crying and telling me that they’re too DRY?”

Up until now, Henry has been quietly eating. He chooses this moment to start bombing our sisal rug with peas and quesadillas. The evening (and my patience) finished unraveling at this point. I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details, but I will tell you that it culminated with Abby in the bathroom, naked, sitting on the potty and bawling. She stopped crying long enough to throw Henry out of the bathroom.

I sat at the empty (more proof of the aforementioned gracious God) kitchen table wondering what in the hell happened. I ate my last bits of chicken quesadilla and savored my last sips of wine.

The evening was raw, emotional and ugly. I reminded myself that just because they are in foul moods doesn’t mean that I have to be, too. I told myself that it was great that they could unwind and land in the soft arms of home and mom. But, what I told myself and what I felt were, shall we say, slightly conflicted. I felt angry, frustrated and annoyed. Four hours can be an eternity at the end of the day.

Now, since the din has gone to bed, I can assuredly recap with these two thoughts:
1. I am so, so glad my whiney, worn-out children are asleep.
2. My life would be gaping without quesadilla bombs, quivering bottom lips and crocodile tears.

I'll take any four hours with them, even stretches like these. My wish for them tonight: sleep tight, sleepy children. Sweet dreams.