Browsing Tag

Bouncing Back

Solidarity Brothers and Sisters

What Do I Tell My Kids?

I tell them about suffrage. About the women and men who fought for all of us to have the right to vote.

I tell them about the Civil Rights Movement. That bodies were beaten and spirits were crushed, and still, the people fought and triumphed.

I tell them America was not ready for a woman President this year. But that will absolutely change.

They will ask, “But why did people vote for a mean man, Mommy?”

And then I will have to defend President-elect Donald Trump. I will say that he probably is not as mean as he sometimes seemed during this campaign. He is a father and a husband. He might not believe women can be equal to men. But he is wrong about this. And, in January, it will be his job to be a President for everyone, not just the people who voted for him. And, boy, isn’t that a hard job? Isn’t that kind of crazy? But every four years, someone has to do that. It’s how America works.

They will ask, “But what can we do now?”

And I will remind them about how we are going to visit great-grandma Mary tonight. We will give her lots of kisses and an ice cream cone. We will go across the hall and invite her neighbor, Betty, to come play cards with us. We will comfort the sick.

When we get home, we will put non-perishables in our backpacks for the fall food drive at school. We will feed the hungry.

And we will finish our Veterans Day pictures paying tribute to those whose sacrifices we sometimes take for granted. We will strengthen this nation.

We will be the changes we want to see.

And we will hug each other. When I smell the innocence of their warm little heads and feel the love in their strong little hearts, I will remember they are the future, and that love – not fear, not anger, not disgust, or even sadness – but love, love always wins.

*And after I put them in bed tonight, I will listen to this song on repeat for awhile. For anyone who needs simultaneous sadness and healing. It is not a Christmas song, but rather a day after Christmas song.  And it is just right.

 

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

 

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among brothers,

To make music from the heart.

 

Poem by Howard Thurman (1899-1981)

Music by Dan Forrest (b. 1978)

www.danforrest.com

 

 

Dreams

Best Supporting Actress? Mom

As a child, I was a bit…theatrical.

I tap-danced at nursing homes, directed talent shows on the front porch, and composed original works for my recorder club. I memorized songs from The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, and repeatedly staged Annie in my upstairs bedroom.

But it was not until high school that I actually auditioned for anything. In my first play, Working, a musical about Americans and their jobs, I sang backup for the factory worker and the housewife. I had no lines, and no costume changes, and I spent roughly eleven minutes on stage pretending to either weave fabric or clip coupons. I spent so much time off stage that I could make a McDonald’s run during the show and still be back for curtain call.

My hopes were higher in our next play, a French comedy entitled The Miser. Indeed, I was rewarded with my first line. Well, not a line so much as a word. And I didn’t exactly deliver the line in the show. I was cast in the Troupe de Comédie, a fancy name meaning, “kids who did not make it into the actual play.” We wore funny hats and tumbled onto stage to announce important information like, “Act 1, Scene 3,” or “The Play is Over Now.” I spoke my single word, “tock,” during Intermission, when we informed the audience that they had a ten-minute break, and the clock was ticking. And tocking. We were the human equivalent of the playbill.

And so it went. I had two lines in Bye-bye Birdie, but I delivered them in darkness during a scene change. (“I found a lock of somebody’s hair. I wonder if it’s his?”) In Carnival, I played a puppet that helped talk a young girl out of suicide. It was not exactly Singin’ in the Rain.

By senior year, I got my big break with a solo in Godspell. Except my boyfriend and I broke up a week before the show, and I was so distraught that I caught a cold and lost my voice for opening night. I had to lip sync my own number while another gal sang for me. That one was actually quite a lot like Singin’ in the Rain.

As I look back on these bit parts and botched scenes, I find it amusing that I grew up fancying myself a singer, dancer, and actress. It is utter poppycock. I am no more an actress than I am a snake charmer. But the things we try as children stick, even if they don’t turn out to be true.

Which is why I am so proud of my daughter, Katie, tonight. It was the opening night of our community production of Peter Pan, in which – failing to follow in her mother’s footsteps — Katie was cast as Wendy. At 4:30, I applied her make-up. At 5:30, I dropped her at the theater. And at 6:15, I received an urgent communiqué from the stage manager: “Wendy needs you.” I found my little girl hyperventilating near the snack bar, insisting she could not play the part. Situations like this were not covered in the parenting books I read, though they most certainly will be when I write one. Chapter 1: Preventing 5-year-olds from Calling Heavyset Women Pregnant. Chapter 2: How to Remove Poop from Furniture. Chapter 3: What to Say When Your Child Threatens to Flee the Theater Fifteen Minutes before Curtain.

Poor Katie had the flu last week. She missed the tech rehearsals and costume fittings, and never had the chance to become at ease with the lighting and live music. As the audience was being seated, she became more agitated. What could I say to make her feel better? I considered, “Don’t be nervous,” but Katie was clearly petrified. “Try to calm down,” seemed likely to have the opposite of its intended effect.

I pulled her into an empty rehearsal room and wracked my brain. When in my life had I been truly scared? And what had people said to ease my fears? I was robbed once in a parking lot. It was terrifying, at first. But I turned out to be as broke as my assailant, and all the guy got was six bucks. Some crooks broke into my house a few years back, but I slept through the burglary, and only felt afraid after the fact. Truthfully, the most alarmed I have been as an adult was the night my daughter was born. For months, I worried I would not know what to do, that the pain would overwhelm me, that the baby would suffer because of my mistakes. How had I made it through that fear? I vaguely remember people encouraging me to breathe.

As a rule, children do not like to hear their birth stories. They do not want to be reminded of how you wiped their private parts, and held them to your breast, or how they were once fully a part of you. I spared Katie the intimate details. Instead, I told her the funny stuff, and reminded her to breathe. The doctor was annoyed to be working that day because the Super Bowl was on. Breathe in…2…3…4. Breathe out…2…3…4. During the contractions, Daddy said he was “getting tired,” and I yelled at him when he leaned on my bed. In…2…3…4. Out…2…3…4. Sweet baby Katie did not cry for the first week at home, and fooled us into complacency about “what a breeze” this parenting thing would be. In…2…3…4. Out…2…3…4. Then that same baby shrieked inconsolably every night for the next four months. She cried so much she threw up. We had to pull the car over and bounce-walk along the highway to try to quiet this tiny, furious angel. “You were one of the worst babies I ever met,” I told Katie tonight. “But you have grown into a spectacular kid. You were dramatic from the get-go. You can do this. It’s in your blood.”

She had stopped crying by then, but was still unconvinced that she should take the stage. “Mom, what if I’m not any good?” I thought back on my years of theater and realized that I had never been much good at any of it. I learned confidence and poise, experienced playfulness and joy. But I did not learn to act.

“Katie, you are performing this show for an audience of your family and friends,” I told her. “Even if you walk out on the stage, say ‘Meow,’ and pee, everyone is still going to love you.”

In the end, I am not entirely sure what did the trick. Maybe she just decided it would be less dramatic to stay and do the play than to deal with the fallout of leaving. But when the lights came up, Wendy took her first cue, and Peter Pan sailed on from there.

I did not take my own seat in the audience tonight. Instead, I stayed backstage while the principal actors, my daughter among them, sang and danced and flew. The feeling of watching from behind the curtain was a familiar one. Hidden in those shadows, I realized that my years of waiting in the wings had actually prepared me for this moment, for the biggest theatrical role I will ever play: the chance to be someone’s Mom.

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(Originally ran in Feb. 2015 on DadvMom.com and HuffPo.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health & Fitness & Oreos

Sick of Sick Kids

Henry threw up in his bed last night.

Over the monitor, I heard him talk to his T-rex. Then there was the unmistakable sound of yacking. I trudged down the hall, and found his blanket warm and slimy. Gross, but not surprising. My kids, and most of their friends, have been passing around a bug this week. Henry was simply the last to fall.

In the beginning, we navigated the crud pretty well. My husband was away, so I became Nurse Mommy. I found a working thermometer in Lizzie’s marker bin, and a jug of Gatorade in the garage. Armed with a sleeve of Saltines and a blue bucket, I set up a sickbay in the living room. I fluffed pillows, rubbed tummies, and sponged fevered brows. I spoon fed the sickos ice chips laced with Ginger Ale.

When Katie, my champion vomiter, completely missed the basin by her side, I forgave. “Poor love,” I clucked, and sopped up the sludge with a cloth.

We cuddled and drowsed, and only half-watched Harry Potter in front of the fire. I held their smelly bodies and remembered the tiny heft of them as infants, how each one could fit in the crook of my arm.

“I love you, Mom,” said Lizzie. “You take good care of us.”

“I love you, too,” I replied. I did take good care of them.

Mostly.

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They call it a “24-hour bug” because that is how long the children suffer the worst of it. Except my kids stagger their starts. A single virus takes a week to tear through our family. Which is unfortunate, since, as it turns out, I only possess 24 hours of hospital-grade patience.

On day two, I started to dislike my invalids. I began to doubt symptoms. “Ninety-nine degrees is hardly a fever. Drink some ice water. You are going to school.” I took issue with their nausea. “And you? You threw up an hour ago. Stop it. There is nothing left to toss.”

My transformation from Florence Nightingale to Nurse Ratched wasn’t entirely my fault. If the children would have stayed cuddly and bilious, I could have endured a week of quarantine. Instead, things got ugly.

Gratitude gave way to entitlement. They demanded more movies, and a better soft drink selection. I made smoothies that no one drank, and applesauce that ended up in the dog. I cooked homemade soup, and they plead for Top Ramen.

When the pink eye arrived, I lost my cool. It struck Katie first. Her stomach was on the mend, but school refused to take her back looking like an addict. So she stayed home for the fifth day in a row. I plunked everyone in the bath to disinfect, and Lizzie promptly had a gusher of a nosebleed. While I staunched it, little Henry, fascinated by pink bathwater, began slurping. “Stop drinking your sister’s blood!” I yelled.

On any given day, I navigate plenty of crazy. Their lips hurt, so they can’t eat broccoli. Someone’s “teeth feel funny” when she tries to sleep. Last year, Katie missed the school bus because of itchy pants. I bandage phantom “owies” and kiss invisible wounds. And it is okay. I want my kids to turn to me for comfort, to believe Mommy takes good care of us.

But I also want them to suck it up. To rally. I know of no miracle formula for building resilience in a child, but I think it probably starts with dragging your arse off the couch when you don’t feel 100%. Just ask any boss. Ask any parent.

Most days, I can be the mom who nurses sick tummies. But after too many crud buckets, the other mom emerges. The kids call her mean. But she knows something they don’t—suffering is not the end of the world. Indeed, the ability to overcome discomfort is part of growing up, as is the capacity to nourish a healthy body in the first place. It takes that other mom—the one peddling kale chips and a brisk walk to school—to teach this. Sometimes the mom who makes them feel worse is the mom who helps them get better.

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Awesomeness

Another Exciting Family Ocean Adventure

It was rumored there were whales in the bay today.

My husband and I decided to paddle out and see if it was true.

We brought the children with us.

That may have been a mistake.

Like most of our excursions of late, 66% of our kids professed disdain for and disinterest in the initial plan. Lizzie said she would only come if she could bring her new sketch pad. And markers. And snacks. When we explained that we were kayaking, she called us stupid and hid in her room. When we invited Katie along, she suggested going for fish tacos instead. When we said we’d really like to stick with the whale thing and that maybe we could grab food after, she told us we were ruining her life and flopped down on the living room floor. Only 3-year-old Henry agreed to come whale watching. He grabbed his five favorite stuffed animals and hopped in the car. It was only later that we learned he thought we were going to a movie theater.

We very nearly left them all at home. Hiring a sitter would have been easier. But, dammit, we were offering them a maritime adventure and they were acting like we’d said, “take out the trash.” Despite everything I have learned lately from the awesome book I’m reading about listening to my kids, I refused to take NO for an answer. It took us nearly two hours of cajoling, bribery, anger, and arguments, but in the end, we got all three children into those boats.dadvmom.com_ataleofatail_katiepaddling

This was not actually our first oceanbound endeavor to see sea life. Several years ago, we boarded a whale-watching zodiac off the coast of Victoria, British Columbia. After what seemed like fourteen hours of searching, our captain idled the motor long enough to show us a children’s picture book of what the whales might have looked like had we seen any at all. We returned to shore without sighting so much as a pelican.

A few weeks ago, Ken took the kids on a dolphin boat that failed to find any dolphins, and a lobster dive that resulted in near hypothermia, zero crustaceans, and dinner at a Chinese restaurant. But today felt different. Today, the whales were out there. And we were going to find them.

When we rented the kayaks, the gal assured us that it was only a “quick 2- to 3-mile paddle” out to where the animals had last been sighted. The water was described as “glassy” when we called to reserve the boats, but by the time we had had all of the arguments we needed to have, about markers, movies, and tacos, and actually found ourselves and our grumpy progeny seated in the kayaks, visibility had begun to diminish and the wind was blowing steadily onshore.

Still, we shoved off. Our paddles were identical, but Katie and I argued over who got the better one, and Lizzie yelled at Dad because the sea lion colony was too smelly. But we kept going. We rounded the breakwater toward the open ocean and found ourselves looking at 15-mile-an-hour winds and 2- to 3-foot swells. For true sea kayakers, these were still pretty good conditions. But for folks like us, who ate hushpuppies for breakfast, and had several passengers as moody ballast, the conditions were quite challenging. After the eleventh wave broke into the bow of his boat, Ken suggested we turn back. Considering the conditions, our ability levels, and the family temperament, reason was on his side. The children had probably been right about this “dumb stupid trip to see dumb stupid fish.”

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“Let’s keep going,” I said. I wasn’t ready to fold. At least we would get a workout in.

And workout we did.

We pointed our banana yellow kayaks toward a sailboat leaning along on the horizon, and paddled as though we might be able to catch up.

That’s when Ken saw a spout of vertical spray several hundred yards in the distance. None of the rest of us had seen it. He told me later about the cartoonlike gush of blowhole spray. He signaled to me and we picked up our pace.

We paddled swiftly for another hundred yards and that’s when Katie saw the tale. She shrieked and pointed, “I see it! I see it!” Ken’s boat cut in front of ours, and soon all of them were pointing and screaming about the whales.

Whenever we go visit my in-laws in the Texas hill country, we look for shooting stars. Away from the lights of the city, they are actually a pretty frequent occurrence. But I almost never see them. The crick in my neck gets to be too much. I crouch down to tie somebody’s shoe. I zip to the bathroom. Inevitably, I look away at the very moment the golden star streaks through the sky.

I felt the same way today. There were shrieks of delight from Ken’s boat as he and the little ones got closer and closer to the feeding grounds. Katie exclaimed repeatedly from the front of our boat, “Mom, did you see that?” “Did you see that?” Each time, of course, my answer was “No.” I am the only one in our family who wears glasses. I struggle to see things that are far away. My dollar store sunglasses merely compound this nearsightedness. Thus, I did not see the whale breach. I did not see it slap its tale or poke its nose above the surface. I did not see the water blowing vertically twenty feet into the air. Ken yelled that the whales were swimming away from us. I squinted my eyes against the sun glare, scanned the empty horizon, and kept paddling us out to sea.

I consoled myself. Wasn’t it more important, the most important thing, actually, for me to get my children out there? Wasn’t that a mom’s job? To be a vehicle of strength and opportunity, to chauffeur kids right up to wonderful moments, even if that meant never actually seeing the wonders myself? Even though my kids had been jerkasauruses, I knew they were going to remember this day for the rest of their lives. The day their mom and dad paddled them into the open ocean to see whales feeding. I would not ruin the memory by pouting about how I had not actually seen anything.

And then a tale stood straight up in the water in front of me. It was still fifty yards in front of our boat. But finally close enough for me to see. And hear. The low thump of an enormous animal stunning its prey. It was remarkable. Nothing like the picture of the whale in the children’s book. Majestic. Awe-inspiring. And a teensy bit scary. For nearly ten minutes, we watched these animals – there were three of them – thrashing, diving, and feeding. And then they disappeared as quickly as they had come.

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So very often, as parents, our schemes do not pay off. It rained on our camping trip. The hike to the waterfall was a bust. But, finally, here was an adventure that exceeded all of our expectations.

“If I had stayed home, we probably never would have seen them,” said Katie.

I considered arguing with her. Or turning her words into some sort of lesson. Instead, I just nodded my head.

We scanned the horizon, but we never saw the whales again.

It was hard to believe we had actually seen them at all.  In fact, when we looked at home later for photos and videos of the encounter, none of us had caught anything on tape. We had been too excited at first, and then, simply too far away.

Luckily, families are one another’s witnesses. We hold each other’s memories in our hearts.

“You are right, sweetheart,” I said to Katie. “Thanks so much for coming along.”

We turned our boats around, and with the sun setting behind us, paddled back to shore.

 

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(This is what it felt like to be near the whale tale.  Except it was not raining.  It was a different kind of whale.  And also we were much farther away.  This tail is from an upcoming Ron Howard movie, In the Heart of the Sea, which appears to be the opposite of our experience.  But which I will probably see anyway because, you know, whales.  And popcorn.)

 

Skool Daze

The Worst First Day

The girls and I attended a concert the night before school started.

We anticipated there might be some problems.

Thus–

Before we left, we laid out clothes, turned down beds, and loaded school supplies into knapsacks.

We packed the first day’s lunches and slid them into the fridge.

We agreed to go easy on one another in the morning.

And we headed off.

I felt good about the next 24 hours.

 

I must have been nuts.

At 7:30 the following morning, no one would get out of bed. My tween begged for more rest, rolled over, and went back to sleep. When our kindergartener finally awoke, she yawned and asked for French toast. When I brought buttered toast instead, she said she hated me, and then refused to put on pants. During her wardrobe malfunction, the dog ate the toast. The child cried.

When we finally dragged the eldest out of bed, there was another school supply meltdown, roughly the fourteenth of the week.

The first time we shopped for school supplies, we could not find a plain green, wide-ruled, non-perforated spiral notebook. So we bought a college-ruled one instead.

The second time we shopped, we still could not find a plain green, wide-ruled, non-perforated spiral notebook. So we bought a green-patterned notebook instead. Just to be safe.

The third time, we learned we had been using the wrong school supply list. We had inadvertently purchased materials required at an identically named elementary school somewhere in Vermont. We had not needed four reams of notebook paper after all. Only one. We did not need red marking pens. Or index cards. Or a pocket thesaurus. Or even a plain green, wide-ruled, non-perforated spiral notebook.

We needed a blue one.

The store was all out of those.

We found a black notebook to add to our previous attempts, and I thought we had a Band-Aid fix. We even joked about how seriously everyone takes school supplies, and how we knew the teacher would be happy if everyone just did the best that they could.

But when confronted with fatigue, first-day jitters, and the weight of these myriad sub-par notebooks, the child crumbled to the floor. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, and a brief but spirited argument about potato chips.

It was at this precise moment that I remembered my own recent goals regarding ease and wonder, and extending a mellow summertime vibe into the otherwise stressful school year. I began to laugh.

This did not help things.

Both kids were late–LATE!–for the first day of school.

In the 10 1/2 years that I have been in possession of children, we have been late to movies, restaurants, play dates, a hockey game, a cross-country meet, a wedding, the circus, airports, bus stops, every soccer practice that we have ever attended, and church. And, of course, we have been late to school. But never, never on the very first day.

We had to return to the house when the now pants-clad kindergartener realized she had forgotten her backpack. And then we went back again to retrieve her shoes.

There was no parking at either school.

We snapped no photos in front of any Welcome Back! sign.

We delivered no inspirational remarks about the promise of a new year, and said nothing about our hopes and dreams for them.

I forgot to hug my fifth grader, and the kindergartner pushed me away.

We had anticipated that there might be some problems that morning.

We were right.

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***

One of the only things we are any good at in this family is the bounce back. In an attempt to blot out the horror that was the beginning of our day, after school, we tried again. We set out tomorrow’s clothes, packed lunches, and turned down the beds. But instead of getting in them, we drove to the beach where we took a family back-to-school photo.  In the golden wash of the setting sun, we splashed in the salty surf, breathed in the cool air, and told the kids that tomorrow is another day, full of promise and opportunity, ease and wonder, another chance for their dreams to come true.

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Dreams

Best Supporting Actress? Mom

New DadvMom post on HuffPo parents today.

As a child, I was a bit…theatrical.

I tap-danced at nursing homes, directed talent shows on the front porch, and composed original works for my recorder club. I memorized songs from The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, and repeatedly staged Annie in my upstairs bedroom.

But it was not until high school that I actually auditioned for anything. In my first play, Working, a musical about Americans and their jobs, I sang backup for the factory worker and the housewife. I had no lines, and no costume changes, and I spent roughly eleven minutes on stage pretending to either weave fabric or clip coupons. I spent so much time off stage that I could make a McDonald’s run during the show and still be back for curtain call.

My hopes were higher in our next play, a French comedy entitled The Miser. Indeed, I was rewarded with my first line. Well, not a line so much as a word. And I didn’t exactly deliver the line in the show. I was cast in the Troupe de Comédie, a fancy name meaning, “kids who did not make it into the actual play.” We wore funny hats and tumbled onto stage to announce important information like, “Act 1, Scene 3,” or “The Play is Over Now.” I spoke my single word, “tock,” during Intermission, when we informed the audience that they had a ten-minute break, and the clock was ticking. And tocking. We were the human equivalent of the playbill.

And so it went. I had two lines in Bye-bye Birdie, but I delivered them in darkness during a scene change. (“I found a lock of somebody’s hair. I wonder if it’s his?”) In Carnival, I played a puppet that helped talk a young girl out of suicide. It was not exactly Singin’ in the Rain.

By senior year, I got my big break with a solo in Godspell. Except my boyfriend and I broke up a week before the show, and I was so distraught that I caught a cold and lost my voice for opening night. I had to lip sync my own number while another gal sang for me. That one was actually quite a lot like Singin’ in the Rain.

As I look back on these bit parts and botched scenes, I find it amusing that I grew up fancying myself a singer, dancer, and actress. It is utter poppycock. I am no more an actress than I am a snake charmer. But the things we try as children stick, even if they don’t turn out to be true.

Which is why I am so proud of my daughter, Katie, tonight. It was the opening night of our community production of Peter Pan, in which – failing to follow in her mother’s footsteps — Katie was cast as Wendy. At 4:30, I applied her make-up. At 5:30, I dropped her at the theater. And at 6:15, I received an urgent communiqué from the stage manager: “Wendy needs you.” I found my little girl hyperventilating near the snack bar, insisting she could not play the part. Situations like this were not covered in the parenting books I read, though they most certainly will be when I write one. Chapter 1: Preventing 5-year-olds from Calling Heavyset Women Pregnant. Chapter 2: How to Remove Poop from Furniture. Chapter 3: What to Say When Your Child Threatens to Flee the Theater Fifteen Minutes before Curtain.

Poor Katie had the flu last week. She missed the tech rehearsals and costume fittings, and never had the chance to become at ease with the lighting and live music. As the audience was being seated, she became more agitated. What could I say to make her feel better? I considered, “Don’t be nervous,” but Katie was clearly petrified. “Try to calm down,” seemed likely to have the opposite of its intended effect.

I pulled her into an empty rehearsal room and wracked my brain. When in my life had I been truly scared? And what had people said to ease my fears? I was robbed once in a parking lot. It was terrifying, at first. But I turned out to be as broke as my assailant, and all the guy got was six bucks. Some crooks broke into my house a few years back, but I slept through the burglary, and only felt afraid after the fact. Truthfully, the most alarmed I have been as an adult was the night my daughter was born. For months, I worried I would not know what to do, that the pain would overwhelm me, that the baby would suffer because of my mistakes. How had I made it through that fear? I vaguely remember people encouraging me to breathe.

As a rule, children do not like to hear their birth stories. They do not want to be reminded of how you wiped their private parts, and held them to your breast, or how they were once fully a part of you. I spared Katie the intimate details. Instead, I told her the funny stuff, and reminded her to breathe. The doctor was annoyed to be working that day because the Super Bowl was on. Breathe in…2…3…4. Breathe out…2…3…4. During the contractions, Daddy said he was “getting tired,” and I yelled at him when he leaned on my bed. In…2…3…4. Out…2…3…4. Sweet baby Katie did not cry for the first week at home, and fooled us into complacency about “what a breeze” this parenting thing would be. In…2…3…4. Out…2…3…4. Then that same baby shrieked inconsolably every night for the next four months. She cried so much she threw up. We had to pull the car over and bounce-walk along the highway to try to quiet this tiny, furious angel. “You were one of the worst babies I ever met,” I told Katie tonight. “But you have grown into a spectacular kid. You were dramatic from the get-go. You can do this. It’s in your blood.”

She had stopped crying by then, but was still unconvinced that she should take the stage. “Mom, what if I’m not any good?” I thought back on my years of theater and realized that I had never been much good at any of it. I learned confidence and poise, experienced playfulness and joy. But I did not learn to act.

“Katie, you are performing this show for an audience of your family and friends,” I told her. “Even if you walk out on the stage, say ‘Meow,’ and pee, everyone is still going to love you.”

In the end, I am not entirely sure what did the trick. Maybe she just decided it would be less dramatic to stay and do the play than to deal with the fallout of leaving. But when the lights came up, Wendy took her first cue, and Peter Pan sailed on from there.

I did not take my own seat in the audience tonight. Instead, I stayed backstage while the principal actors, my daughter among them, sang and danced and flew. The feeling of watching from behind the curtain was a familiar one. Hidden in those shadows, I realized that my years of waiting in the wings had actually prepared me for this moment, for the biggest theatrical role I will ever play: the chance to be someone’s Mom.

 

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Holidaze

Wallowing in a Winter Wonderland

So we stood in line to see Santa yesterday.

There were some problems.

For starters, the Santa-to-child ratio. I’m no mathematician, but my estimates put the number of kids ahead of us at just under 17 million. Number of Santas ministering to those children: one. Those were crap odds.

We know that Santa is clutch. He’s up against heftier numbers on game day, and he always comes through. But that must be due to his crackerjack support network — the elves, the Mrs., the deer. Our Santa… he had staffing problems.

From what I’ve researched, elves are of paramount importance to this whole seeing Santa business. These green-clad minions move folks along. They keep the action merry. But there were no polar aide-de-camps working our line. No one in or out of tights jingled a bell or cheerfully hinted we were getting any closer to the Big Dance. There were no elves staging photographs. Terrified children stood in awe of Santa and/or picked their noses, allowing precious seconds to pass. No elves hustled anyone off of Santa’s lap or hurried families through a candy cane exit.

Seeing Santa is not work you want left to parents. If we wait all that time, when it is finally our turn, we want the perfect shot. We have Facebook pages to update, and friends to Instagram with photos of our kids in complementary reds and greens. We want Santa to hear everyone’s complete list, even little Timmy’s. He is shy, but if you just give him a minute or two, he’ll open up and tell you everything for which he is quietly hoping. The choo choo train. The blocks.

In short, parents are Santa hogs.

Which is why, after an hour-and-a-half, my kids and I were still nowhere near the jolly man in red. I tried bribery. “How about some kettle corn?” And cajoling. “Wouldn’t it be way more fun to see Santa next week at the mall?” I even tried to dash hopes. “Seeing Santa isn’t that big a deal anyway. Who wants hot chocolate?”

My 9-year-old wavered when I mentioned a beverage, but sensing my desperation, insisted on a pizza, too.

My 2-year-old had already bumped into everyone in line near us, so he was eager to break out of the queue to knee-cap new victims.

But 5-year-old Lizzie would not budge. Her eyes were full of hope. She wanted to ask Santa for a Barbie doll. “I know we’ll make it, Mom. We just have to believe.” What could I say?

So for 93 minutes we believed.

But then Santa left for a smoke break.

And there was some sort of program involving hand bells, and carolers, and a speech about a Christmas tree. I tried to watch. But we were standing in a line that was no longer moving, waiting to see a fictional character who was no longer there.

I lifted the red velvet rope and gently tugged my children out into the darkness.

There was crying on the way home. Also an argument over burritos. I tried to engage them in conversation. “If you had been able to see Santa, what would you have asked for?”

“A new mother,” came the first response. It was fair. They could not be angry with Santa. They could only be angry with me.

dadvmom.com_wallowinginawinterwonderland_heartcandyanesAt home, after a dinner that was neither pizza nor burritos, we wrapped presents for a family whose name we’d pulled at church. A Barbie doll, a train, some matching jammies in red and green. For a little bit, anyway, we played at being their elves.

We drank cocoa and laughed when Dad tried to play “Jingle Bells” on his ukulele.

We told each other what we wanted for Christmas.

And as I snuggled with my children on the couch, once they had determined they no longer hated me, I decided that Santa Claus could kiss my ass.

Originally published on the Huffington Post.