Friday, June 24, 2011

A Three Pack Tissue Day

I got emotional in the car yesterday. I was driving home from the doctor's office and it hit me - my baby is going into middle school. She isn't a baby anymore (hasn't been for some time). I felt surprisingly sad, didn't think it would hit me that way at all. I spent the rest of the day trying not to tear up over even the most mundane of things - pile of laundry on the floor, school picture hanging on the refrigerator. I didn't think I was going to get all melancholy about this - elementary school culmination. Heck, even if Nicole is moving on to middle school, I still have several more years of taking my soon to be third grader, Natalie, up to that elementary school every morning.

When I arrived to pick Nicole up from school, she and her fifth grade friends had just returned from a culmination party held on the backlot of CBS studios. They had hot dogs and popcorn and snow cones with ice cream underneath the ice (talk about indulgence), a DJ and a photo booth. They danced in 90 degree heat under the blazing sun and came home exhausted, happy and slightly dehydrated. But most of all, ready to move on. As much as Nicole will miss her friends, teachers, and school, I felt like yesterday, she realized that she would okay leaving. As sad as it would be, she was excited about the future. She was ready to go to middle school.

I tucked three packs of tissues in my purse for this morning's culmination. One for me, one for her, one for everyone else who vowed they weren't going to get emotional over an elementary school ceremony. I don't believe them. I'm bringing the extra pack of tissues just in case.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


There has been a lot of crying around here lately. I’ve been having health issues for the last six weeks and sometimes the pain is so intense that my eyes will tear up and I don’t even realize it. Natalie has been dropping things. A soda into her father’s favorite slippers, a full orange juice container in the back of my newly detailed car, and a nightly tipping over of whatever beverage she has for dinner. She gets so frustrated when it happens that she cries.

The other night, I heard loud cries coming from the living room and rushed from my bed to see what had happened. As I approached, David said, “You don’t want to go in there.” But I never listen. Fearing the worst, I looked around the corner and saw Natalie on the floor in tears, the table in front of her covered in red liquid. My first thought was that she’d struck her mouth on the glass table and that blood was everywhere. On closer examination, the “blood” was fruit punch and Natalie had had yet another spill, this time on the living room carpet, which prompted her crying fit. She was terrified I’d be upset that she had spilled again and ruined the rug. Actually, finding out that it was only fruit punch instead of blood, I was so relieved that I didn’t care about the rug. I was just glad she wasn’t hurt. It didn’t matter. She cried uncontrollably for ten minutes.

As I was calming Natalie down, Nicole came into the room and curled up on the bed next to me and she started crying. She’d been fine earlier and I couldn’t imagine what had sparked this emotional downpour. Natalie was still whimpering in my lap, and now this! In between crying jags, Nicole told me that she’d been thinking about fifth grade graduation and realized how much she was going to miss her friends. She said she didn’t want to grow up, go to middle school and that she wanted to stay in elementary school the rest of her life. I tried to comfort her and assure her that she would see many of her current friends in her new school. I reminded her how often she had talked about and made plans for middle school and how much she would enjoy it when she actually got there. (I should have seen this coming because she’s been listening to some song called, “Never Grow Up” endlessly for the last week or so.)

But the tears continued. So the three of us sat on the bed and had a good cry – Nicole, longing to never grow up, Natalie wishing she were more grown and not always spilling things like a little kid, and me wishing that my body weren’t growing older and betraying me in ways I never imagined. Sometimes you need a good cry and sometimes it’s just hormones. The trick is knowing the difference.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Whatever We Do

When David and I were taking prenatal classes at the hospital before Nicole was born, the nurse said something I’ll always remember. She said, “Babies are irritated by everything, and everything you do to make it better irritates them more.” I thought of those sage words the other day as I was trying to coax Nicole out of a stinky, I’m-ten-not-a-teen-but-I’m-going-to-act-like-one mood, but everything I did made her more cranky. It was then that I realized that the nurse’s advice applies to every stage of parenting.

Babies are irritated by everything and everything you do to make it better irritates them more.

Tweens are embarrassed by everything and everything you do to make it better embarrasses them more. (Note to self, do not sing Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive” out loud in public with your children nearby.)

Teenagers are angered by everything and everything you do to make it better angers them more. (In other words, don’t try asking them about anything without expecting a surly response, in fact growling and hissing may even be involved.)

College students are always in need of money and the more money you give them always makes them need more. (Second note to self, change phone number, email and mailing address as soon as they head off to college. They can’t get money from you if they can’t find you.)

So if we irritate them, embarrass them, anger and enable them, why do we subject ourselves to this parenting process in the first place? It seems like it would be a win-win for kids and parents. But no one said parenting was easy. In fact, they said just the opposite. My friend Miriam once said that the divine plan was to make babies so cute so that you would forget about all the other crap you have to put up with. And they are cute, even if it can be tough going sometimes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


When I was growing up, the only graduation ceremonies we had were from high school and college. Nowadays, there are graduation ceremonies from pre-school, kindergarten, fifth (or sixth) grade, middle school, high school and college. We celebrate accomplishment at every stage, no matter how small. I mean, really, how difficult is it to get through pre-school? But as I watch my daughter and her fifth grade friends buzzing with excitement over their upcoming (and very elaborate) culmination ceremony – the PC phase instead of graduating – I can’t help but get caught up in the energy of it all. They are thrilled, proud of themselves; really see it as a demarcation from their childhood years into being more mature young people.

They are flexing their independence in a variety of ways – from going places on their own or in small groups but with nary a parent to be found, getting and using cell phones, arranging their own study sessions and social activities. I can feel Nicole’s babyhood and childhood slipping through my fingers and have to allow myself to let it go. I can remember endless nights trying to get her to go to sleep, feeding her, changing her, and I’d often wonder, “Ugh, when is this going to end?!?” Now she gets up, gets herself washed and dressed and has even been known not only to feed herself, but the rest of the house as well – she makes a fine pancake, her grilled cheese is stellar, even if her mac and cheese still needs a little work. So those baby days have ended, replaced by chatter with girlfriends on the phone about homework, clothes and who likes who. Nicole will sit in the front seat of the car with me occasionally as I drive and has now started asking me questions about technique. I can see the wheels spinning in the back of her mind as she takes driving notes and plans her moment climbing behind the wheel. She and her best friend have already planned out their college experience. Now if only the SAT scores, college acceptance letters and financial aid all come together to support their goals, they have decided at the ripe old age of 10 that they want to go to Harvard together and be roommates. Look out Harvard.

The aisles in the stores are filled with graduation cards and decorations. And as Nicole’s big culmination draws closer, I find myself throwing an item or two in the shopping cart. I found myself in the bakery aisle debating whether to order a cake. And Natalie, Nicole’s little sister, leaned over to me and said, “don’t forget, we have to get her flowers and balloons.” I swore I was not going to make a big deal out of it, but know that I will. And I’ll cry…a lot. I’m a crier to begin with for almost no reason, so something like this just gives me license.