Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sweet Lies

There's a sweet mom that always comes to my daughter's gymnastics class exceedingly late.

Even for a mom, she always seems disheveled.  (And that is coming from me, someone who is never in a cute pair of J. Crew green skinny pants and doesn't wear lipstick because simply, I often have no idea where my make-up bag is.)  This mom has three kids under the age of 3 and she always wears a brown parka that does nothing for her sandy hair and light complexion. 

 The class begins at 10.  This past week, she was so late that she showed up at 10:32.   I want to describe the withering looks she got from the waiting room.  It was cold man, and I'm not talking about the wind chill factor. 

I want to be the first person to say I try very hard to get my children and myself to places on time.  Sometimes though, I fail. I do believe that if you're habitually late your life is out of control so I try not to be habitually late. I also find it annoying when someone I'm meeting is always late.  They know this. I tell them. I tell them that this must mean that their lives are out of control. Then they start coming on time.  It's like magic.

But that being said, Late Mom rushed in, hair flying willy nilly, kids covered in crumbs and juice stains and, of course, still wearing the unflattering brown parka. 

She said to the room "You know it's bad when your 2 year old tells you that you need to manage your time better!"

And there was silence.  And it hung there.  And it felt like judgment.   And I think we were all feeling rather smug because we had gotten our children to class on time. Certainly, we were all doing better than that mom least.  And then I saw that Late Mom looked really bummed out. And then I felt kind of ashamed because we were all silently patting ourselves on the back for getting our little kids to a class on time. Big fricking whoop.

There was a mom there who was basically putting out a bid for connection and we were all shaming her?  No one was throwing her a bone and the rather bitchy receptionist was even giving her a superior sort of look.

So I my book of Maeve Binchy essays aside, (which is a huge sacrifice since that hour in the waiting room without any kids is very precious to me) and, all in the name of being less of an asshole than I was being, I did what I do best.  I white lied.  I'm a great white liar, (it's sad but true) and lately I've started owning it. I learned this skill post-college, when white jeans were in and people were asking if they made their respective butts look big.

"I know, RIGHT?"  I yelled back at her.

She looked relieved that anyone was talking to her late, pariah self.  A smile flooded her cute, albeit caked-with-something face.

"It's like we were already so daughter wanted a juice box, so I had to run back inside the house and get it....and then she wanted apple juice instead of grape I had to run back inside to switch it," she says.


I squelched to urge to give her advice like "How about next time tell her either "no!" or "it's grape juice or the highway" and I remembered a time (perhaps many times) when I too, indulged my kids because I was just plain too tired for a fight.

" I hear ya, sister!"  I sang out. (My whole demeanor changes when I'm white lying. I sound like someone testifying in a gospel choir, I don't know why.)

"I'm embarrassed I'm so late, I am" She sort of fake-laughed nervously.

"Oh, come on! You're not late for your daughter's inauguration.  It's a tumbling class." I encouraged.

Cue very bitchy look zinging my way from receptionist.

"I know!" she said. "It's the same with the's like why do I need to get there on time?"

ohdearohdearohdear.  Because your arrival disrupts the entire movie? Because you miss all the previews which is the best part?

"I hear ya!" I say again.  Because that's what this was about.  She wanted to be heard 

This nice mom and I clearly didn't agree on our respective timetables, that was obvious. It was also certain she wasn't looking for advice on how to organize her life. (Not that I'm qualified to give any) But she was having a tough morning and reaching out for some reassurance. And if I couldn't extend my hand for 1 minute with a few kind words than really, what's the point?

It took me back to a time when I burst into tears outside my son's swim class, so horrible was my week.  The kids had been acting up, my husband was away and one of my book reviews had been criticized by a reader for being anti-feminist (as IF!)  One my friends told me her kids could be gargoyles also, her husband left a sopping wet towel on their down comforter that morning and people were crazy.  I was comforted.

Another mom we don't know that well piped in, "my kids have actually been behaving really well this week.  And my husband made me breakfast in bed today!" 

We don't sit with her anymore.

The point is if you have a choice between being a giant beeotch who thinks she's got it all together or a an empathic human being willing to connect, please go with the latter, especially if someone seems to be in need. 

Be kind, even if it means telling someone their white jeans don't make them look like a cannoli.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Have Mercy

From Vegas to church on Sunday in just in a matter of days.

Spending so much time indulging in the city of sin last week perversely caused me to want to go to church this past Sunday even though I hadn't been there in a while.   I gifted my husband with 3 hours of blessed solitude to go for a bike ride and I packed up the children to go to our church.  That sounds much easier than it is since my 3 year old Little D and I got into a huge argument because I wouldn't let her wear her Mets shirt and Big A insisted on bringing a tiny Minecraft figure that would surely somehow end up in the collection plate.

But we made it, (with time to spare!) and collapsed into the pew along my parents.  My mom immediately began doling out tictacs which annoyed me because she should really wait until the sermon for that kind of thing when the kids get really antsy. Daphne opened her mouth wide to smugly show me the dissolving contraband Grandma had given her and promptly dropped a hymnal on the floor.

We got through the prayer of the day without incident but during a quiet moment of reflection during the Gospel Big A stage whispered "IS THIS ALMOST OVER YET?"  It wasn't.  And then Little D dropped a hymnal again.   During the sermon, where the pastor made a reference to Great Expectations I enjoyed immensely, I began to feel peace in my heart.  Then Little D dropped a hymnal again. I noticed Big A's finger kept scratching his nose in such a way that he was itching to pick it and I rooted around in my bag for a Kleenex.  Then during another moment of quiet reflection Little D dropped a hymnal again.

I took away the hymnal.

We sang the Hymn of the Day, but I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing since my 6 year old was belting it out and even trilling his Rs, a la the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. I have no inkling why he was singing that way but I was distracted because Little D had now bamboozled Grandma into giving her more orange tictacs. Big A stage whispered during the prayers "WHEN IS COFFEE HOUR?  DO YOU THINK THEY'LL HAVE BROWNIES?" instead of "Help us, oh Lord!" and I could have sworn he mumbled "Help us to have brownies at coffee hour today, oh Lord" but I can't prove it.  When the choir sang, quite beautifully, Little D showed her distaste by covering her ears with her hands.  "Where is all this music coming from?"  Big A wondered and I tried to silently point towards the pipe organ. 

The kids started slumping down in the pew, emulating a posture I remember well from my own childhood and when communion came I was glad that they'd get to stretch their legs a bit. But imagine my surprise when the pastor offered my son communion wine. 

"No!"  I objected.

"Yes, please!" he insisted.

To my relief she didn't give him the blood of Christ but imagine my surprise when Big A grabbed my near-empty plastic cup I was about to throw away and chugged the rest down.  My cheeks flaming I dragged them back to my seats, wondering why I put myself through this.

From what I've noticed, kids get really bored in church.  That's why I lobbied successfully to have Sunday happen during the majority of the service.   But this particular day there was no Sunday School and thus, no real way to make the Parable of the Bridesmaids and Their Lamps relatable to kids.

When we finally got down to coffee hour and the kids plates were heaped with bagels, fruit and the coveted brownies, I tried to explain the gospel to them in a way they could understand.

"Are you glad you came with me to church today?" I asked Big A.

"Definitely!" he said.

"Really?" I said, somewhat touched that this all wasn't lost on him.

"Oh, yeah," he said "If I hadn't come with you to church today, I wouldn't be here munching on this delicious brownie."

True story.

But I will not give up despite what can be an incredibly embarrassing and seemingly futile endeavor.  I will continue taking the kids to church, because I want to expose them to a place where I've found a lot of joy and peace throughout my life.  I'm sorry it's boring at times, (and truthfully my mind wanders off occasionally also) but I ultimately think proving a church life and a church family for my children is incredibly important.

Even if it inadvertently starts them drinking wine at an early age.     

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Childless in Vegas

I don't miss the kids.

My hub and I head to Vegas for our yearly jaunt where he works for 3 days and I generally have no responsibility whatsoever.  The drive to airport was like a vacation in itself...there were no children in the backseat asking me for juice and requesting I tell an umpteenth story.

On the plane, my hub and I grew playful with each other in the way we usually reserve for the kids  We ordered two cocktails and my husband began a conversation between his empty gin bottle and my empty rum bottle. The woman next to us looked disgusted. We played hangman, using all our inside jokes.  The woman next us changed her expression from disgusted to revolted. Then we cheesily listened to Bob Marley and Neil Diamond songs, sharing one set of headphones, one ear bud in each of our ears.  The woman next to us vomited into her air bag. 

I read two books and laughed out loud, People I Want to Punch in the Throat and Spoiled Brats.  I didn't have to take any children to the bathroom or share the peanut M&Ms I had stowed away in my bag and when my sister, sitting two rows behind, handed me a People Magazine I didn't have to explain to my children why, as Big A says of the skin-baring fashions "all the ladies look like they're naked"

Then we checked into our hotel, the Palazzo, and while all the other adults seemed to be numb to it's beauty I was amazed by the fountain, the sculpture, the giant floating leaves and giant pears dangling from the ceiling. Clusters of empty green wine bottles were hung from each tree in clumps and the fountain tinkled away, nearly begging for me to throw in a penny.

I really missed the kids.  They would be in awe of this lobby. They would be amazed and inspired by fruit bigger than a couch and twirling, sparkling leaves seemingly suspended in mid air. They would freak out to see wine bottles growing on trees.  I began to sniffle. 

"I wish that Big A and Little D were--"

"Don't even say it!" Big G interrupted.  It's 11 o'clock their time. Vegas is not the place for them."

My husband left to meet with some clients right after we got settled in the room and  I ordered room service, including a daring bowl of new England clam chowder. I was wondering if maybe I had gotten over my shellfish allergy. What happens in Vegas...

As it turns out I am still allergic to shellfish. 

I was so glad the kids weren't there with me to see the rushing tidal waves of clams and cream, along with a tomato mozzarella salad exit my body the exact way it came in.  Vegas, baby.  Go big or go home.

The next morning I do something I never do at home. I wake up and go to the gym with my big sister,. How different than sneaking out to go for a run before my littlest one wakes up and wants to snuggle the desire to exercise right out of me.   We work out, my sister cracking up at me as I sing too loudly along with the music, drop her iPod off the treadmill, not once but twice, and try to mimic her weight lifting moves.

Now I have the whole day to myself.  It will be 10 hours before I talk to anyone I know again at a cocktail party my husband's company throws for his clients.  While I love the community of close friends in my life, I actually also enjoy being alone. I mean, I'm always hearing "That Natty...she's great company!" and I am usually the one saying it. 

So I book some spa treatments and I'm happy, once again, that the kids aren't here to run screaming through my relaxation time or whine the zen right out of me.  But then I visit the Bellagio gardens and the fountains and I wish the kids could be with me to enjoy them.  I visit the Leonardo DiVinci exhibit and think that my 6 year old would have loved it.  I go gamble and I'm happy, once again, I'm not looking after a wayward 3 year old in a dark smoky casino in the city of sin.  We go out to a club and I drink my face off.    Now I'm hungover for the first time in years and I am so ridiculously glad the children aren't here to make any noise that could exacerbate the jackhammer noises my brain is making all on it's own.

So I miss the kid and I don't miss the kids. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and.  I'm happy to escape for a couple of days once a year, content and at peace that my children are happily being spoiled by their grandparents.  But I miss having them around since they are generally my constant companions, and let's face it, they may be sticky but I actually like those little buggers.

I call them.  They are having a ball with Grandma probably doing taboo yet Grandparent-sanctioned activities like eating Skittles or playing on an iPad for three hours or slogging through the indoor playground at Burger King or probably all three at the same time.

They come on the line.  I hear there gorgeous voices and I miss them so much I want to climb through the phone and squeeze them. My children, in return, talk to me for a fraction of a second, saying what sounds to me like a very phoned-in "I miss you, Mommy!" before dashing off with laughter, presumably to get back to their Pixie Sticks.   

The kids clearly do not miss me.