You Can’t Kiss It and Make It Better Forever

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They tell you all sorts of things about being a parent before you become one, while you are becoming one, and after you are one.  They tell you, with a grin (!), that you won’t sleep for months on-end when that little bundle moves in.  And you nod back with appreciation, while saying to yourself, how bad can it be, really? And then, after two weeks of sleep deprivation, you hit a wall so hard you can hardly see straight.  It didn’t matter how much warning they gave you.  It was, in fact, that bad and even worse.  How could all those parents who went ahead of you still have the capability of putting a sentence together, let alone smile?

They tell you about the terrible twos (which are really the terrible 18 months-all-the-way-up-until-age-fours). Again, you nod and smile and say to yourself, not my little peanut!  And then one day, there you are in the grocery store while the nut is on his back in the middle of the produce section screaming louder than an ambulance siren.  And you are conflicted by the desire to sit down on the floor and scream along with him or to walk away and pretend that you have never seen a child, let alone had one of your own.

And then they tell you about the joys of middle school, with all those hormones, cliques, and learning struggles.  Right, right, right.  How bad can it be?  Uh huh.

No matter what, at every stage, that huge, overwhelming, all-encompassing parental beast inside of you wants to make it better, to do it for them, to prevent the pain you know will come.  But they have told you that you can’t, you have to let them live their lives.  And yet again, they are right.  You can only hope beyond hope that they will survive.  That they will come home and soak in a healing bath of love and comfort, to be able to face the next thing.

They also say that this feeling of wanting to make it better for your child never really goes away.  And now, as my own child is growing toward adulthood, I know that they are right.  This parent beast within will never leave. My baby now stands at 5’11” and is approaching our societal age of adulthood.  Even as he faces more and more of life’s difficulties, I must step back and become more of a spectator.

Although I still would love to wind him in bubble wrap and keep him safe, I will be the one cheering from the sidelines, “Go, Peanut, Go”!

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“Did You Leave Your Brain At School”?

Thus asked the man who rescued my son and his friend.  Our truck, a beast of a thing — 2500HD if you know trucks — was solidly stuck in soft snow up to its belly.  The Kid and his friend, en route from school last night, decided to take the side road and it didn’t end well.  This morning, some heavy duty road clearing equipment made a path so that the stranded monster could be extricated.  Nothing a couple hundred dollars and a mild headache could’t fix.

This adventure was quick on the heels of a warning from our county sheriff, who found the Kid and others doing doughnuts in a parking lot.  The snow was perfect, the Kid tells us, and my car is awesome at drifting.  Sigh.  I remember being in a group of kids who did doughnuts in the school parking lot, Tears for Fears beating through the speakers.  Different music, different kids, same games.

We knew these days of less-than-optimal choices would come.  So far, at least as far as We The Parents know, they have been fairly harmless.  The Kid has appeared appropriately shaken up by the outcomes and we hope that some sort of lesson is sinking in.

This parenting thing starts out with lack of sleep and a lot of effort aimed at trying to keep the little being alive.  It then tumbles through all the wondrous ups and downs of growing up.  Tantrums, play dates, victories and defeats.  Papers, exams, unfair teachers and unfair kids.  Injuries and illnesses, hugs and pats.  Then the child reaches this age of in between, and it’s more difficult than all that other stuff.  At times he is the adult he will become.  Insightful, wise, bright.  Then a raging teenager emerges, angry at the world, himself, you and the dog.  Then he picks up a long-forgotten gizmo and plays like a boy, a grin spreading across his face.  Then he goes 4-wheeling on a two track after two weeks of steady snowfall . . .

The Kid asked me last night, after the rescue, at what point a male brain stops being stupid.   Didn’t quite have an answer for that one.  Does it ever?  We’ve all read the studies about the developing male brain, and that it takes much, much longer to firm up than we once thought.  Alas, although testosterone filled teenaged boys are more prone to it, you don’t have to be male or young to make a stupid decision.  Any of us can leave our brain behind at any point.

And so, we tell him to try to think first, that it only takes a second or one wrong move for things to go upside down.  We know our words are mostly bouncing off, but hope a few sink in.  Mostly, we remind him that we love him, and wonder how any of us made it this far with all the dumb things we’ve done.

This Is Us: The No-Name Generation

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Yesterday’s post of the top 10 things of being a middle-aged woman got me thinking about the time period in which my contemporaries and I grew up.  Born in the late 60’s, we became aware of the world in the 70’s and came of age in the 80’s.  We are a downbeat generation, nestled in between the baby boomers and gen x-ers.   I don’t even think our generation has a name.

We were the first to be extensively babysat by the TV.  We learned our ABC’s from Sesame Street, forming our perceptions of inclusion (people and monsters of all colors lived together fairly harmoniously) and exclusion (“which of these things doesn’t belong”).  We learned that it was ok for a man like Mr. Rogers to be obsessed with changing clothes.  Sweaters and sneakers rotated with regularity in his little house.  Later, we wanted to cruise on the Love Boat, look for de Plane with Tattoo on Fantasy Island, and drive a Ferrari with a ball cap like Magnum PI.  Is it any wonder that we became so materialistic and built McMansions to live in?

People had already walked on the moon by the time we came along, so we missed the wonder of that moment, but we did witness on live TV the space shuttle blowing up.  Similarly Kennedy was assassinated before we arrived, but we were in middle school when Reagan was shot.

We did some pretty cheesy, if fun, summer projects with Grandma:  Macrame plant hangers;  hook rugs; painting by number.  We bought Rinky Dinks once and then Grandma figured out you could have almost as much fun shrinking down her prescription bottles in the oven, so that was pretty toxic, I’m sure.

The Vietnam War came to an end in our early childhood, and our young eyes soaked up the anti-war protests, free love and rock and roll on our black and white TV’s.  Flower power, Baby!  From this, we picked up a willingness to rebel, but only when it suited us and wasn’t too painful, as disco roller skated us into the 80’s and Gordon Gecko taught us that “Greed is Good.”

HIV/Aids became an epidemic and we watched men shrivel away in front of our eyes.  Fear and homophobia were at an all-time high, but we decided that this sickness was not a punishment from God and we educated ourselves and our neighbors and funded research to find treatments that extend the quality of life.  We made memorial quilts and hung them in exhibits to show that these people had lived and had worth. And Magic Johnson came back and played basketball even with HIV.

We have first-hand experience with bad fashion, beginning with 70’s bell bottoms, leisure suits, and turtle neck sweaters all the way through the 80’s parachute pants, neon everything, jelly bracelets, moon boots, Member’s Only jackets, Michael Jackson gloves and mom jeans.  This baseline of bad taste set us up well for better fashion choices in the 2000’s.  We look relatively good now.

We grew up on Big Macs, Mountain Dew, and Dominoes pizza, Twizzlers, Pop Rocks (didn’t some kid die from eating Pop Rocks with a Coke?), Freshen Up Gum and candy cigarettes.  And now we are paying it forward with skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer . . .  Sorry, kids.

Our first video game entertained us for hours with a white blip moving across a black screen.  It is the ancestor of the life-like war games our children now play day after day.  I wonder what years of Call of Duty will do to the psyches of our offspring, if Pong helped make us whatever it is we are.

We became adults and had children before 9/11, and we mourned not just the loss of souls that day, but also the loss of the naive cocoon we lived in and that our children would never know.  This world will never be the same and we must never forget.

The soundtrack to our lives has been incredibly rich, filled with soul, rock and roll, new wave, disco, pop and reggae.  We heard the Carpenters croon Muskrat Susie in our parent’s car, Queen, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC blared from our brother’s room, we were leaving on a jet plane with John Denver and summer lovin’ with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.  The Beach Boys, John Melencamp, Hewey Lewis, all things Motown, U2, The Cure, INXS, the Talking Heads —  “Watch out, you might get what you’re after!”  Sweet Home, Alabama.  Just makes me want to create that perfect Pandora station with an ambrosia of throwback music.

The movies.  I just can’t do them justice:  the Pink Panther and Young Frankenstein and the Princess Bride and the Holy Grail. <sigh>  Trading Places, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop, and Back to the Future.  Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and everything else John Hughes ever did.

To steal a line from the cotton coalition, this is all the Fabric of Our Lives.

Now, members of the no-name generation, let’s get Prince into those high heeled boots and party like it’s 1999!  (Because pretty soon, social security is going to run out and we’ll have to figure out how those of us in the trough are supposed to cover the costs of the giant waves of people around us . . . )  Cheers!