The past seven days or so, I've been helping the kids stay focused on their studies. Not studying with them (except for grammar with Lulu), but wrangling them into study mode. Semester exams began last Friday and ended at 11:20 this morning. As did the last day of school. Thus, begins summer.
Another milestone, too: Lulu turned thirteen this past Sunday. We are now a true teen household. It's becoming increasingly more difficult for me to remember what life was like before the teen years. Childhood and the peri-teen years. (And for the girl, the peri-peri-teens. An agonizingly extended period.) I genuinely welcomed my children's growing independence. Perhaps my failure to summon certain stages of their development stems from an established management strategy; a coping, or defense, mechanism—a survival tactic—the subconscious suppression, or repression, of those infant and toddler days.
There was a stretch of time, six years to be exact, after an ambivalent move to the burbs, when the kids were very small and when my husband traveled nearly every week, a time when this now thirteen-year-old sprite never slept and her older brother, the Nocturnal Knight, never stopped, when I was working full-time, three days in the office, two at home, a time of overwhelming single-mother type stress, when I felt desperate for help. And for sleep. Though I never would have admitted as much then. I barely remember that stretch now. This too shall pass was my mantra. And it did. Pass.
Last night I watched the now 6' 2" Max lift himself from his comfy, curled position on the couch and stride over to the kitchen with a very man-like gait. Shoulders broad, head up, confident, but still rail-thin. When did this happen? This man thing? He won't be fifteen for ten days.
* * *
On the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Lu says, Ma, you know I'm happy you're an older mother. I think older mother's are wiser. They don't spoil their kids as much.
I consider this for a moment. But didn't you get everything you wanted for your birthday, Lu? (She didn't want much, really. Just a few clothing items and perfume from her favorite Pink and Hollister stores.)
True, but you don't spoil me like some kids are spoiled, and some kids are not so nice to their parents because of that. They know they can get away with things.
So, you're saying you don't mind that you don't always get what you want.
Yup, that's what I'm saying.
I punch my fists in the air, Yes!, and tell Lu that I wish I'd had her words recorded on tape. (There are many, many things I wish I had on tape. Or on notes. Or video, or any medium given to reproduction.) I try to expunge the thought that, at least in my mind, the essence of this conversation is that I am old. And Lu is anxious that I may not be around as long as some other moms. But that's another conversation. One that we've had. Fears.
* * *
I try to remember them as babies. I look at old photos lining the upstairs hall. I recall their smiles and laughs at various stages of their young years. (I heave aside the colic and tears.) Their pranks and late night prowls in their bedrooms and throughout the house. I almost remember the warm feel of them in my arms, but it is like the warmth of an an old friend who has moved to another country. And I don't have a passport. I want to go there. But I don't necessarily want my photo taken for the papers. What those days ultimately bring to mind, aside from some funny and absurd moments, is how well toned my arms were back then. I wonder if it would be any easier to get those back.
Tonight, I head back to my old high school with Lu. She will present a certificate to the girl who won a college scholarship in my father's name. (Father taught English at the high school.) Max and his cousin Emmie presented two years ago, and another cousin last year. Lu will be at a podium. She will speak. She has prepared notes. She is ready. She does not seem worried at all. It's her time.
June 8, 2012 Postscript:
This morning, I'm heading to the wilds of Maine with the kids to celebrate the end of the school year. We'll be at the family lake house (where internet service is taboo) for the next several days. I'll be catching up with all of you when I return next week. Have a wonderful weekend. :)
Oh I remember those days though my kids have been grown and gone for some time now, they are 33 and 35. even now, when I see them, sometimes I wish I could have them be babies again, just for a quick snuggle. that was so long ago that now even my grandkids are too old to want to climb up in my lap.ReplyDelete
I don't suppose, then, those feelings ever go away. And the worrying, too. Always there. Cursed we are, parents!Delete
As I read this, I can feel the love you have for your daughter. And I can tell how very present you are for them. How you cherish every growing limb and crooked smile and bygone day. I hope that someday I can be as present for my kids as you are. There's a certain contentment, a feeling of cherishing that comes across in your writing. I envy that more than you know.ReplyDelete
Happy Birthday to Lu!
Angela, I've know doubt you'll be very much present for your children. I don't know any other way--not that I had any training. It's all trial by fire, it is. Before children, I didn't believeI had been equipped with any maternal instinct. After I had Max, a strange sense, like that sixth sense we speak of, only highly maternal, kicked in. I have to tell you, though, that I owe a world of gratitude to Anne Lamott. Her book Operating Instructions was a godsend. Kept me right sane, it did. ;)Delete
oh my dear jayne, this was wonderful. what a sweet daughter you have (and son, too, i am sure of that). so precious.ReplyDelete
and, to give credit where credit is due, i will say what a helluva fine mother you are simply because you are THERE.
parents and children—one day we are taking care of them, holding them, holding their hands, but then, look out, on another day in the not so distant future, they will be doing the same for us. but never mind that now. what i say to you, old wise one, is OLD SHMOLD. i was young, right out of college, when i started a family, but the majority of my friends, classmates and acquaintances and were between 30 and 35, so you have lots of company out there. ; )
m - do we have a choice? I suppose some may, but I don't feel like we have a choice. We just do it, right? Whatever it takes. Be there.Delete
There are many times I wish I had started w/children at a younger age. But I know I wasn't at all prepared back then. Could not, in fact, even visualize babies in my future. It's wonderful how things change, though. And change us.
Between 30 and 35. Hmm... I started a few months shy of 36, so, a little company I guess. :)
Thank you, dear Map. xoDelete
You've done a good job Mom!ReplyDelete
I remember when my son was 15 and he, also, had reached 6'2" and I had to look up to him for a change. Wonder of wonders! He's now 39. The years they do fly by faster and faster.
Ru- Isn't it a little unnerving, looking up at your 15 year old 6'2" son, eh? Holy cow, I think Max is going to be taller than his dad. He eats like he's definitely preparing for another couple of inches.Delete
Too fast, Ru. Too darn fast.
So lovely, Jayne. Another country, and us without a passport. And the toned arms. Yes, and yes. And now I'm remembering my kids at the ages yours are now. It's astonishing how fast it all goes, isn't it? (Especially the toned arms...) :)ReplyDelete
Seré, Ha! I think I should go back to the gym. It may be the only way, But then, I'd feel even older.Delete
You know, even if we had the passport, the country's been barricaded. No one's crossing those borders! Nope, just no way back to that country. :-/
That was so beautiful. My baby (not really - he's two actually) will say a word like "peez", or give me a kiss that first moment I ask and I think, I wish I had a recording of that. My four year old girl will dance in her preschooler joyful, confident crazy way, and I think, I should get the video camera. I hope I remember these things. And I think I'd better take a picture of my semi-toned arms, made strong with mothering little, dependent ones.ReplyDelete
I hope my kids will appreciate my parental wisdom in their teenage years the way Lulu appreciates yours. I'm nervous.
Hillary- you're baby will always be your baby, no matter his age. Capture some moments digitally, but don't make it a habit. That's one thing I've consciously done. I never wanted to stand behind the video cam and see life go by from that angle. In the moment is so much more rewarding.Delete
Though, Yes!, hold those babes in both your arms and get some good photos of those happily strong, toned arms of yours. I am Mother, hear me roar!
Sorry, typo above. Our kids grow so fast. Those special moments are etched on our hearts forever. Kids are wise. They don't need to be spoiled if there is love. They want our love.ReplyDelete
You've done good as a mom. Your kids don't worry. They know when it's their time to shine, and they know they are loved.
I deleted the typo, Loree. No problem. Love is all we need, yes. And you're right, kids are so very wise. They are often more connected to the source than most adults. With Lu, at a very early age, there was a level of intuitiveness that shocked me. No question I've learned a lot from my babes.Delete
You have been gone but you are SO present. This is a gorgeous write and one of my favorite of your expressed voices. The time away was good for you to do what you need to do. Happy to hear your words again. Let the season be. :)ReplyDelete
Aw, glad you liked this ecogrrl. Time's always good like that, isn't it? And the season will be, will probably keep me from even further away for a while. I'm going to have to be very clever about reserving time for writing/blogging/reading. Oy. Summer's always been tricky like that, for me!Delete
You're not the only one who is older and wiser. I would say Lu is displaying much wisdom herself.ReplyDelete
Happy milestone on reaching your teen household! It's a brand new ride.
While babies and toddlers require the hands-on approach, teenagers are a hands-off affair. It requires more brain power to keep up with teens. Still plenty of sleepless nights, but not from physical exhaustion, it's more mental and emotional(for me, anyway).
It's wonderful that your family presents the scholarship founded by your dad. I like that a lot.
Leonora, absolutely. That girl is an old spirit. She came into this world having been elsewhere before, I swear. It's so funny because her brother is not at all like that. He is sweet and caring, but not quite as "right there" as his sister. Lu got the street smart gene.Delete
Hands off affair. That says it all--so very true. Now comes the tricky part, right. I'm learning to balance, Leonora. Learning... ;)
Nick Disaster turned 3 on monday and the I-mac 6 on July 1, and i think back now to all the nights spent feeding and rocking and changing diapers and damn if i don't find myself missing it, nothing drove my mortality home more than having children, i try to absorb it all cuz i know it goes by once and doesn't come back, i remember my life before they were born but it seems like someone else's now, good stuff though you wise older mom (i got a good chuckle out of that)...ReplyDelete
Kono, did you get married in September, too? Heh.Delete
Those nights, ya, stressful but pretty special. It's good we tend to forget the stressful part. Goes by way too fast. Savor. 'Tis all we can do. And I know what you mean about someone else's life. It was. And that person becomes more and more distant and alien the older those kids get. But it's all good. ;)
Oh, yeah, that Lu is quite a character. If I'd only kept a list.
That's beautiful what Lulu said. I spent a lot of time looking at photos of my sons when they were teens in preparation for their leaving, intuiting that it was a long process that takes emotional preparation.ReplyDelete
Lulu would fit right in the with Queen's Jubilee celebration with that hat!
Colleen- so now I know what to do! At this stage, with Max going into his sophomore year, I feel like I'm on the cusp of that process, but not quite ready to contemplate it. I suppose I should though...Delete
Ha! I wonder how the Queen would feel about a Victoria's Secret box as a hat. ;)
(Though, it wasn't VS garb inside!)
Transitions are not to be taken lightly. Knowing what matters most and letting go of the rest is a sign of wisdom (and self care). Significant moments, such as the scholarship presentation, Lu's appreciation of your parenting skill. It is a full life. The writing will be there. xoReplyDelete
I hope you're right, Marylinn. I want the writing to be there, but find there's so little time. I know I'm mismanaging. I've got to be. But heck, you know how much they, family life in general, take up. We mother's do know what matters most. That's the good thing. ;)Delete
My gosh, they'll be leaving me soon, won't they?!! :^/
Seems like you've done a good job raising kids.ReplyDelete
The traveling can be hard to fit in with family life. We have these challenge all the time. I'm traveling quite a lot, and my wife travel too. Sometimes we have work travel simultaneously. Then we have to fly in some grandparents to take care of things.
Cold As Heaven
Oh yes, Cold, very difficult. I traveled quite a lot for work before kids. But that exciting and fun. After kids, it becomes and exercise in juggling and scheduling and master planning. I'm too exhausted to travel after all the prep work! And I'm happy to be working from home now. I don't miss the conferences and gatherings. Not one bit.Delete
Flying grandparents, in. Now that is some impressive planning! ;)
This is a beautiful meditation. Thus, begins summer. Yes.ReplyDelete
Yes, summer, Sue! Thus. Hours will be changing 'round here. But I will continue to make room for my meditations. (As best I can, anyway.) ;)Delete
Oh Jayne, this post really got to me. I love that Lu appreciates your wisdom—and age. Just yesterday my granddaughter was slapping at my arm fat and laughing. It made me laugh. I guess she appreciates my silly jiggly arms. What I'm saying is that I offer everything up and receive so much more in return.ReplyDelete
You have traveled far to come to this moment. Enjoy!
Leah- I'll gladly take appreciation, in whatever form it presents itself. And those young ones do know how to give, don't they? (Well, they're pretty good at taking, too. ;))Delete
This past weekend Max turned 15. And he's still such a sweet, thoughtful boy. I keep counting my blessings. :)
:) Thanx Laoch.Delete
You have a grand time with your children. For years I took mine to a place in Minnesota - no TV, no internet or phones. Such a time to just live after the rigors of the school year. Freedom, for all of us. Of course, reeling them in after that took a little while, but such a perfect time. As is your essay here - perfect. So sorry I haven't visited more lately, but so it goes. Meanwhile, thanks for sharing this most intimate view of your feelings.ReplyDelete
Hi there, MJ- so nice to see your smiling face here again. Yes, what I most love about my family's place in Maine is that it very much is, as you said, freedom for all of us. And that's especially welcome after a grueling school year. As you can see, I keep stretching that little patch of freedom--still not quite ready (or able, really) to return fully to the ethernets!Delete
hope you had a nice trip - sounds like you've got a couple of really nice kids. mine are a little older but like you, i treasure the ability to talk with my kids and have a solid relationship with them. in this day and age that doesn't always come easily. happy birthday to your daughter - and son, in a couple of weeks.ReplyDelete
Lovely trip, Amanda. I do treasure the closeness my kids and I share. It's true--not always easy, and I know when I was their age, I wasn't half as, how shall I say?, accommodating to my parents. I'm very fortunate.Delete
The teen household is in full force now!
A lovely post- my baby is also 16- part of the job of a parent is to make themselves gradually redundant and hopefully be re-employed as a grandparent. I like your parenting approach and your writing, so have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award, hope that's a nice surprise. You can grab the badge from my blog post 'The Invisible Importance Of Hats' and don't fret over the rules- think of them as optional guidelines only :-)ReplyDelete
Lily- So nice to make your acquaintance, and thank you kindly for the award. I have received this award in the past, but I'll gladly add your name to the button.Delete
I'll be dropping by your place, soon. :)
Thank you for stopping by Jayne- glad you had fun- and not at all surprised this is not your first nomination for versatile blogging :-)Delete
Oh, my gosh, I can't imagine having a 6'2 male for a son -- what a glorious thing that must be!ReplyDelete
Happiest of birthdays to Lulu, my dear Jayne -- you'll forgive me for being late in coming to the party. This post was a thoughtful step back into another (equally harried!) time and that image of your smiling brand new teen brings joy. And just lovely that there is a scholarship in your father's name, an appropriate honor for your daughter to present.
And he's not done growing, Suze! Aaahhh! Thanks for your sweet b-day wishes; I'll be sure to pass them along to Lulu... Who, by the way, did a smashing (her new "everything British" lingo) job at presenting the scholarship award to the senior. She stood tall and proud at the podium. It was a wonder to watch. :)Delete
Congrats on the Versatile blog award, it's lovely to meet you :).ReplyDelete
Thanks kindly, unikorna. Nice to make you acquaintance, as well. :)Delete