Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Channeling Emily

It has been nine days since we brought our daughter to college. Her absence is palpable. There are moments when I acutely miss everything about her -- her heavy footsteps coming down the stairs at the crack of noon, her Dagwood-inspired sandwich making, complete with sliced olives and pickles, her spontaneous bear hugs and her rapier wit. Mostly, I miss her energy. As my grandmother would have said, she is not a shrinking violet. She does not enter a room, she infuses it. She artfully asseses everyone else's mood and zeroes in on the one whose spirit is most in need of lifting. She is almost always sucessful, especially with her father. She called him Sunday afternoon after the Yankees beat the Red Sox. He was at work in our home office, engrossed in preparations for the upcoming week. His face lit up as I handed him the phone and told him that she was calling to speak to him. "Hey, Sweetie," I heard as I left the room. Moments later, he came downstairs, practically skipping, clearly done with work for the rest of the day.
My younger son misses how she would explain things to him. Last night, he asked me what "flirt" means. I answered, "To interact with someone of the opposite sex whom you find attractive to solicit their interest in you." He responded that Emily would have given him a simpler answer that he would have understood. I channeled my daughter and rephrased, "The way a boy or girl talks to someone they like." That seemed to work. What would Emily do? I will have to remember to ask myself that more often.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Teenage Boys: Part 1

Teenage boys are a thing of beauty. Not unlike teenage girls, they have a remarkable ability to be extremely irritating and charming all at once. However, their tendency to eschew the typical drama and mood swings that define teenage girldom is awesome, in the truest sense of the word. Recently, my older son got stood up by one of his buddies. He was ticked off and let his buddy know in no uncertain terms. I had to speak to his mother for other reasons and she was very apologetic for her son's behavior. I assured her that I felt no need for either of us to mediate the situation and that the two boys would figure it out. Half jokingly, I said, "If we were the mothers of two teenage girls, we would be fighting this out in court!" Perhaps a bit of hyperbole but we unquestionably would have been embroiled in the center of the dispute. A couple days later I asked my son how things were with his friend. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Whatever." I thought that maybe this was a big deal to him and would not easily resolve itself. However, by the next weekend they were together again. While I hesitate to say that all had been forgiven, it had at least been put behind them. I doubt they will ever discuss it in any way. There will be no dissection of the experience yet they will move forward. My son will not need to let his friend know how he felt and will never ask him about his motivations or his expected outcome. Beyond, "Sorry, dude", there will be no apologetic overtures. As a lifelong girl, I can unequivocally assert that I have never so quickly and easily resolved a dispute with someone, male or female. My husband has often stated that men and women are just different in this regard: one angry man might knock another down in a brawl but then pick him up, take him for a beer and give him a ride home. No need for soul searching, soul baring or closure. And, apparently, it begins in childhood. Beautiful!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

In my life as a parent, I have been an exceptional Santa Claus, an acceptable Easter Bunny but a lousy Tooth Fairy. My kids learned from an early age that they could only ask Santa for 4 things and that Christmas lists were "due" by November 1. They would scour the "Toys R Us" catalog that came in the Sunday newspaper, looking for their hearts' desire. Then, they would cut out the items they wanted and paste them to their letters to Santa. Not only did I know what they wanted, I had detailed lists with photographs, sale prices and dates and UPC's. With the advent of online shopping, I became Super Santa. Just me and Amazon.com, making spirits bright.
Easter was less involved and we always managed to get the baskets together and set out the night before. We always got the eggs dyed on time with only one real disaster. Don't ever try that stuff that is supposed to tie dye the eggs. What a mess! I had to us WD40 to clean the sink! We also learned to switch to hiding plastic eggs outdoors after our dog discovered all the protein treats we had left for her around the back yard.
But the Tooth Fairy business I could not master. I was constantly forgetting, giving the Tooth Fairy a bad reputation for tardiness in our family. I even crafted notes of apology, manufacturing plausible excuses for her being a day or two late in getting to that bloody tooth under the pillow. There was a late fee that kicked in on the second day that doubled the cost of a tooth. I even convinced the kids that the tooth fairy was having difficulty getting to the tooth under the pillow as she did not want to awaken them. They started setting out the little silver box on their desk, anything to bring forth that stupid fairy. It once took me three nights to make the exchange. When my daughter was about 11, she looked at me slyly and told me that the Tooth Fairy had not come the night before. I looked at her straight in the eye and said, "How about I just give you 5 bucks and you give me the tooth?" She was shocked! "Mommy! Do you realize that you just admitted to me that you are the tooth fairy?"
It is funny how we feel so compelled to perpetrate these deceptions on our own children. There is a sense of liberation when they no longer believe and we can let our guard down. For my older two kids, it seemed to just sort of happen. My youngest, at age 11, intellectually knows that it is all a hoax. I think he fears admitting it because somehow it would end the flow of presents, cash and candy. I was two days late on his most recent tooth. It is only September. Let's hope I can keep this going for a few more months.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Today we brought our first born to college

Today we brought our daughter to UCSB for the start of her freshman year. I am filled with a mixture of emotions, ranging from euphoria to acute anxiety. As parents, is this not what we have been striving to do for the last 18 years? To raise a child from infancy, bring her through the trials and tribulations of K-12 education and marvel at the bright, witty and capable adult who stands before us, poised to take the world by storm? I delight in my daughter. I am thrilled for all the opportunities that lie before her and have great confidence in her future successes. But as we left her, teary-eyed in the hallway of the 6th floor, I had to force myself to stay strong, to be the role model of resolute conviction. My husband, two sons and I opted out of the shuttle bus back to the parking lot and took a soulful stroll across campus, dragging her oversized empty suitcase behind us. My 11-year old son remarked, "It feels like we're forgetting something." My husband called her before we reached the car to ask her if she missed us. She quickly responded "yes". My older son posted a sad face on Facebook because his sister was gone. These are the moments as a parent, sad and conflicted, where I have to remind myself that our goal was not to raise a happy child but to deliver unto the world a competent, self sufficient adult who would do great things, globally or locally, and perpetuate this continuum. My heart is full but there is a hole in my daily life that I will hold open for her. I hope my love for her shines through like a beacon in the dark, cheering her accomplishments, comforting her in times of distress and illuminating a path to a home that will always be here for her. I love you, sweet girl!