Seasons

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Growing Up, Parents are People, Too | 8 comments

Four Seasons

I haven’t been away from my blog this long since I started it eight (eight!) years ago.

So much has changed since my last post. An entire season has come and gone. Flowers more delicate than the pioneering daffodils and crocuses have bloomed. Green is everywhere, hiding ticks I’ve plucked out of both of my kids already. A crop of super-sized mosquitoes arrived early and promises to stay until first frost. (Mourn the loss of much of New England’s bat population.) And the surest sign of summer here, road construction, is omnipresent.

It’s also that time of year when parents measure time, and I’m no exception. At a recent bat mitzvah, a kid I’ve known since his toddler days was persuaded to belt out a rendition of “Let It Go,” karaoke-style, and the first cracks of a changing voice were unmistakeable. My own son has outgrown pants and shoes purchased for him just a few months ago. Youth baseball season has come and gone; my daughter’s annual dance recital is behind us.

When snow still was a daily possibility, I had two parents. Now, I have only one. My relationship with my mother was never easy–a parent’s lifelong mental illness creates unceasing, unpredictable bends and twists in relationships–but death throws down a steel barrier, an absolute “stop” sign in the road of even limited possibilities of where a relationship might someday go.

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Hello, Middle Age

Posted by on Mar 11, 2014 in Parents are People, Too | 0 comments

Sepia hat and middle aged woman - self portrait

Hello, middle age? I’d like my right eyelid back.

Not the one I’ve got now–the one that appeared suddenly one morning in February 2013. This one has no crease in it and only my eyelashes prevent my open lid from swallowing my eyeball entirely. No, I’d like to have back the one I lived with through the great majority of my life thus far, the one with a deep crease and a lot of space between the crease and brow. My eyes had been one of my best features, and I’d prefer not to mess that up. K?

Yeah, that doesn’t seem to be working out so well. Instead, some days, my left eyelid shows signs it may soon succumb to the same gravity as my right. On the upside, I suppose I’ll at least not be lopsided when that happens.

What’s this about? I acquired my first gray hair (white hair, actually) at twenty-six, and the overall transformation is very gradual. I’ve been neither surprised nor unprepared. But the onset of true middle age seemed to occur overnight, and it involves things like my eyelid. This was not in the memo.

In the same month my eyelid turned pouchy, the five pounds I’d alternately been adding and dropping for years acquired permanent resident status and settled around my midsection, an area that had been thin through the previous four decades of my life. Those five pounds brought a few friends with them, and I nearly passed out as I tried in vain to zip pair after pair of jeans. Finally I stashed the lot in a plastic bin and bought an entirely new wardrobe of pants.

Middle age, it turns out, is expensive. Wait. They charge you for this?

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Dancing Away

Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in Growing Up, Parents are People, Too | 1 comment

ECB-kirkland-nutcracker-0013

Last week was a crazy week in our house. Not only was it Thanksgivukkah, but it was Nutcracker week–for me, the first Nutcracker week in almost thirty years.

I grew up with The Nutcracker. From the time I danced my first role as one of Mother Ginger’s clown children at the age of nine or ten until I left the world of professional ballet at the age of eighteen, October through December each year was dominated by my rehearsal and performance schedule. Long before my final performance, I knew the ballet so well I could hum the entire score, bar for bar, without missing a note.

That was a long time ago.

On Friday, eight-year-old “Emmie” performed in her first Nutcracker. She was a polichinelle, another name for the same role as my first. Weeks of rehearsals culminated in a grueling, long-weekend schedule: a stage rehearsal and opening-night performance on Friday, three performances on Saturday and two performances on Sunday.

Emmie had been anticipating this Nutcracker since the summer. It was the first year she was old enough to audition, and if I say she was excited, I’m making a considerable understatement. But I wondered how an eight-year-old who still needs at least ten hours of sleep each night would cope with the demands of the weekend.

Adrenaline and enthusiasm won. Fatigue hit Emmie as soon as opening night was over, but she kept going. For three days, she didn’t argue with anything anyone asked of her, made it to the theater on time, ate only healthy food, rested when she could, followed all the rules, danced her role on stage, let me scrub off her makeup and did it all again.

The Nutcracker allowed Emmie to grow in ways nothing else has.

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Back to…Fall

Posted by on Aug 29, 2013 in Education & Learning, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Parents are People, Too | 1 comment

Sara heads off to Middle School

It’s fall. I know, you think it’s summer, but if you have kids, the seasons have changed. A few mornings have already required light jackets over the tank tops. The school bus has picked up the kids (or it’s about to). The small hand of the bedtime clock has been pulled down from its summer creep into bigger numbers, the amount of screen time has been reduced, and the kids are taking both changes hard. In my house, we’ve already experienced our first argument over observing the longstanding rule that after you come home from school, you have a snack and then you do your homework.

How quickly they fall out of practice.

Inevitably, a few unexpected milestones pop up at this time of the year. In the course of the annual (read, tortuous) school shopping, I bought shoes for my son that, for the first time, are bigger than my own. My bathing-averse daughter declared that she intends that this year she will “be a better me,” and thus she plans to be better organized and “take a shower every day. Because I like showers, and I want to be clean.” I’ve begun a new part-time job while keeping pace–at least in theory–with my writing commitments, so I’m undergoing a substantial reorganization of my own.

Spring is supposed to be the season of renewal, but with kids, fall has always held that feeling for me. Sure, the season begins with a small dying as the trees turn color and shed their leaves, but with those leaves one can also sweep away activities and habits that no longer fit. It’s a good time to move on to what’s next, to try on new schedules, outlooks and methods along with the sweaters and boots and tuck only those which hold the most promise into the wardrobe of your life for the next year.

I wouldn’t put it to the kids like that, though. They’ve probably got all the newness they can handle what with covering their new textbooks, making room for the new kid in town (or maybe they are the new kids in town), figuring out their new teachers, rubbing dirt into their new sneakers, and so on. Plus, there’s the whole return of bedtime thing. That’s where the kids are focused, and that’s the way it should be.

But if someone wants to sneak in a few, final summertime treats, I won’t tell anyone. A couple more ice cream stops. One last trip to the beach. A final cookout.

And maybe when the kids ask to stay up late this weekend, a last summer answer will slip out. “Okay.”

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Guest Post – A Really Bad Parenting Day

Posted by on Aug 23, 2013 in Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Parents are People, Too | 0 comments

The Snips of Seymour Smith

The email from my friend Margot* said, “Bad day.” After I read it, I agreed. I’m sharing it with you, readers, because what happened to Margot and her son, Luke, could happen to any parent and child. You might read Margot’s story here and say, “I would never do that,” and maybe you wouldn’t. But have you never slipped up, ever? I have–in ways that have made me think for days, “Wow, close call.” Margot’s story hit home for me not just because she’s my friend, but also because there’s something we can all learn here about our kids who are still children, even when they start to look like they’re not.

How many horrible stories have begun with the opening “It was a beautiful day…?” But it was a beautiful day, one of those perfect, long summer Saturdays where everything is sun-kissed and it feels like the afternoon will never end. My ten-year-old, nearly five-foot-tall son, Luke,* and I had just finished shopping for his back-to-school clothes, an essential task as he seemed to have outgrown nearly everything he owned overnight.

We stopped at my favorite gardening store on the way home to buy end-of-summer flowers to plant later that afternoon. While paying, I asked the lady at the checkout counter what to do about the huge decorative grasses dominating my garden. She told me how she and her boyfriend had pruned theirs back by gathering the blades in bunches and cutting off several tufts at a time.

At home, Luke headed inside for the couch and I worked on various flowers in the garden, dead-heading them before attacking the tallest decorative grass with my large garden cutters. As I snipped each blade back, it occurred to me that this method would take forever. Recalling the lady’s advice about bunching and cutting, I sought Luke’s help.

“Luke!” I called several times. Getting no response, I took a more direct approach. “Can you please get off the couch and come out here and help me in the garden? Stop lying around. It’s a gorgeous summer day outside.”

Luke came outside and held bunches of the grass, offering advice while I trimmed. “Mom,” he said as I clipped, “you need to get that piece right–,” and he let go of the tuft he was holding and stretched out his right hand, pointing his index finger exactly where and when I was cutting…as I snipped off the tip of his finger.

“Emergency room, now!”

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The Fantasy that “It’s All Good” in Parenting

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, Parents are People, Too, The World We Parent In, Writing | 4 comments

Leave It to Beaver

(Recognize this perfect family? Guess what? It wasn’t real.)

Recently, it has come to my attention that some parents awaken each morning to the joy of perfect, sunny children who always do what they’re told or, if they do misbehave, respond quickly to loving, gentle correction. These parents never raise their voices, never have a drink at 5:00 unless their rosy-cheeked children are in the care of a trusted babysitter they’ve known for years, never leave the house with a toddler attached to one shin and mascara smudged under one eye. They embrace the joy in every stage, every day of parenthood, wishing only that the clock afforded them more hours with their precious little ones. Yes, they’d like more time for sleep and adult interests, but they never have days when they really think about the activities they miss and wish they could have them back. In short, they are the people who say about parenting, “It’s all good.”

I think these parents are lying, very possibly to themselves. And they’re giving complexes to parents, especially new parents, who feel otherwise.

Parenting is not “all good.” Yes, it’s wondrous, enlightening, life-giving and loving beyond anything I could have imagined before I became a parent. In parenting, all the things you’ve heard are true. You will find energy and strength you didn’t know you had. You will hold something tiny and feel more love for it than all of the love one universe can contain. You will laugh in amazement at your own wit come back at you from the lips of your child, marvel at her accomplishments that already reach beyond what you could achieve and never tire of speculating about her future.

But all of the other things you have heard about parenting are also true.

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