Daryl, (Never) On His Own

Daryl recently attended a summer camp out of state with a friend. His dad told him to be sure to send us a picture every day.

By the end of the first day, there was no picture. No surprise.

“Where is today’s picture?” I asked in a text. “How was it?”

He responded the next day with this:

That was it. No text, no nothing. What a punk. I said as much in the conversation that ensued.

(My husband responded first. I was calling my son a punk, not my spouse.)

That was Day 2 and the entirety of the conversation. Notice he left me hanging.

Day 3 brought more silence and no picture. I gave up. You honestly shouldn’t expect much out of a thirteen year old boy.

And then, nearly 48 hours after I asked my questions, he responded, “Yeah, it was cold and sometimes scary.”

Then… then… he sent a picture! Unprompted! And it wasn’t of his feet in socks he’d probably been wearing for several days. It was an honest-to-goodness quality picture of a creek surrounded by trees from a hike he had gone on.

He topped it off by carrying on a conversation with his dad about the hike and what he had purchased as gifts for his siblings. When his dad told him he loved him, Daryl responded, “I love you too.” And that’s when I knew.

The boy was ready to come home.

He’s typically an aloof child and not very expressive of his emotions. But one of the best things about him going on a trip like this is the quality of hug I get when he returns.

He actually hugs back instead of waiting patiently for me to finish and he’ll stay in the hug as long as I want. For minutes even. I sometimes wonder if he’s just being tolerant of his mother. My husband is pretty sure that he does it because he needs the hugs too. Which makes me all sorts of warm and happy inside.

Just Another Mystery of Motherhood… Solved

I do the laundry every weekend. This weekend, my husband helped out by running a couple of loads through on Friday. I fold the laundry in our bedroom, making neat little piles for the boys to take to their rooms or for me and my husband to put away in our closet. But something was missing from the piles this past weekend.

Several somethings, actually. I began to wonder if maybe my husband was inept at collecting the laundry, but the hampers were empty. I would have expected approximately 14 of these somethings and instead there was only one. One pair of little boy underwear. Just one. I stared at the piles in disbelief as I finished folding the last load. One pair of underwear – Hal’s.

So let me get this straight, I thought to myself. Hal only changed his underwear once this week. And Daryl… Daryl never changed them at all. He’s still wearing the same underwear he wore a week ago? But he’s showered! Surely he didn’t put stinky, crusty underwear back on day after day?

Daryl, of course, insisted that he had changed his underwear. He couldn’t explain the lack of any clean pairs in the laundry. “Maybe someone took them out of the hamper,” he suggested.

Riiiight.

The mystery went unsolved until last night. Jane declared the bathroom floor a mess. I concurred and instructed Hal to pick up all the towels that were on the floor and take them to the hamper. So he picked up the five towels that littered the floor and this is what remained:

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We found the underwear. Eight pairs – four each exactly. So four showers. Four pairs of underwear. That’s about right since they fight taking showers so much, I only require showers every other day (unless they’ve gotten sweaty and/or dirty). Of course, they are still supposed to change their underwear…

But I guess I’ll take two-day underwear wearing over seven-day. Small comforts.

A Peachy Keen Morning

I had a good time before going to work yesterday morning.  After a satisfying workout where I actually ran (in two 5 minute sessions) and walked quickly while watching a video – a duration and intensity of workout not done by me in nearly 8 months, I showered and prepared for work.

Five year old Hal interrupted me in the act of putting on my socks and shoes for a rousing and humorous hug-a-thon, complete with his little body throwing me repeatedly down on the bed, tight neck hugs, a fun time of head-sitting, me tickling or booty pinching in return, raucous laughter, failed attempts to put on footwear while prone and encumbered, and… joyously sniffing of my shirt.

Yes, Hal delighted in how I smelled.  Well, specifically, he said, how my shirt smelled.  He paused at one point in the antics to sniff my back deliberately and intently.  He told me my shirt smelled good and when I asked him what it smelled like, trying in my mind to imagine how he would describe either the laundry detergent or my deodorant, he said, “Cherries!”

So there you go.  I smelled like cherries yesterday.  He reaffirmed that perception when I came home from work.  Of course, he also referred to the peach he had with dinner as a cherry – he does that often.  So maybe I’m actually a peach?

According to dictionary.com, the fourth and final definition of peach is:

Informal. a person or thing that is especially attractive, liked, or enjoyed.

I’ll take it.  He’s quite the peach of my eye as well.

I Want the Epidural

Birthing a child is painful. Birthing a teenager is more so.

I believe in natural childbirth. I do not personally find the avoidance of pain worth the risks (no matter how remote) of an epidural. I also believe that the process typically has fewer complications and a swifter and smoother outcome when the mother stays directly involved and can feel what is going on.

I’m ready for an epidural now though. I no longer wish to feel the pain of raising a teenager. I still believe the outcome is better if the mother stays involved, but I want the relief of pain avoidance. I want a block between me and her harsh words. I want to withdraw.

Yesterday was the last day of school. My husband opened the boys’ bedroom door that morning and cheerfully announced as much. On impulse, forgetting months of experience, I attempted the same with our daughter.

She didn’t blow up at me. At least, she didn’t until I forgot to close the door as I walked away. Then she angrily and loudly yelled, “Will you please shut the door MOTHER?!” Her incredulity at my thoughtlessness was remarkable and I found myself shutting the door with too much force and then fighting back tears as I stumbled into the boys’ room to wish them a good morning.

See, that door haunts me. It is always closed. I would love to take it off the hinges. It’s not that I reject the notion of her having privacy. It’s that she has to have that privacy 24-7. The door is never open if she is in her room. In fact, the door to any room that can be shut off from the rest of the house will be closed if she is in there.

The door is a physical representation of the emotional distance she has put between herself and the rest of the family. I recognize that this is a fairly normal part of passing through the teenage years. That doesn’t mean I accept it easily.

She tried to indignantly claim from behind the door that morning that she was naked except for her underwear. That, she believed, was sufficient justification for the door being closed, despite the fact that she was still wrapped in her sheets. Despite the fact that she regularly walks the house in nothing but her underwear. It was not accepted as valid justification. Nor was her tone or attitude acceptable, as her father attempted to explain to her.

I did not leave the door open out of spite. It was not a passive aggressive response to it always being closed. It was not deliberate. It’s just hard to remember that while no other door is routinely used, that one must be. When our bedroom door opens in the morning, it stays open until we retire again that night. The same is true for the boys’ door. I think that by my action, I was greeting her and then subconsciously inviting her to join the family.

“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” my husband said when I expressed my frustration. “But it will pass.”

It’s getting harder to resist the spinal block that is available if I just withdraw and don’t interact with her. Such withdrawal is probably just a fantasy anyway since we live in the same house. And she’s not always so difficult. Sometimes, the contractions ease and I have a blissful bit of time that is so peaceful and magical, a time that is perhaps magnified in its perfection because of the memory of pain. But then the next wave hits and I’m thrown back into the chaos of surviving, forgetting the peace in between.

I’ve learned to accept the mild pain reliever injected in my IV at various times as I struggle with this process. When I entered the boys’ room after shutting her door, the pain on my face must have been clear. The continued shouting from the next room definitely was. My middle child sat up in his bed and with complete sincerity and a soft,gentle tone, said, “I love you Mommy.” He then reached over the edge of the top bunk and embraced me, holding on until I was ready to let go.

There are great pains in raising children. But there are great joys too. I can’t responsibly avoid the pain so I will have to hope instead that the joys can anesthetize me enough to still consider it all worth while.

Do You Like How That Foot Tastes, Dear?

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My husband is quite fond of his new-to-him cup that he picked up at the thrift shop the other day. He was sipping tea from it while we ate dinner recently.

I turned the cup to look at the 1776-1976 marker on the back, confirming that it had been part of our country’s bicentennial celebration back when I was a tender two years old.

Setting it back on the table, I commented to my children, “This cup is older than Uncle Aaron is.”

Before they were able to articulate the question, I answered it, “But not as old as me. Because… I. Am. An. Old. Woman.”  Continuing on with my exaggeration of age, I then pointed both fingers at my face and addressing my daughter, said smugly, “Take a good look, because this is exactly how you will look when you are forty.”

“Unless I get plastic surgery. Did you think of that?”

My husband began to cry foul and Jane hurried to redeem herself.

“I mean. I’m sure I’d look much worse than you if I had plastic surgery.”

Surprised realization hit her eyes and then they fell to the table. She picked up her food and muttered, “I’m just going to be quiet now.”

Good idea.

Fighting is Just Part of It

“If anyone is a parent of a teenager and isn’t fighting, then either they aren’t paying attention or they are doing something wrong.”

This was my husband’s wisdom shared when I asked him if we were being too restrictive, after assuring me that we were not. We were sitting at the dinner table with the boys, Jane having opted to spend mealtime in her room, curled up on her bed, likely thinking we were extremely unreasonable.

She’s been asking for a bikini. Actually, she’s been asking for a non-tankini two piece swimsuit. She’s perfectly willing (and actually would prefer) to have a very modest lifeguard style top, like a sports bra.

But we aren’t ready for her to show that much skin. And she can’t articulate why she wants to.

We certainly know why we don’t want her to. She’s thirteen, approaching the end of seventh grade. No one would know that looking at her though.

We ran across an old friend, a photographer, who hadn’t seen Jane in some time. His eyes bugged out when he saw her and he said, “Whoa!” – not believing how big she was.

“Will I be taking her picture soon?” he asked, referring to his rather brisk business in photographing High School Seniors. He was shocked to find out her age, insisting that he would have put her in at least tenth grade.

And therein lies the problem.

She may look like she’s 16 or older but she most certainly is not. Her body is much more mature than her mind and certainly more so than her emotions. She is not in the least bit equipped with the skills needed to recognize and properly respond to the kind of attention she would get.

And so we say no.

And she gets angry.

And I feel sad.

And he is oh so right. Teenagers are basically only happy as long as everything is going their way. If anything isn’t what they want, when they want it, how they want it, then they shed any resemblance to human decency and turn into irrational beasts, angry at the world.

Sometimes I just want to give in. I hesitate to say that since she reads this blog and I don’t want to give her incentive to push harder, but it’s true. Sometimes I just want the anger and the glares and the distance to stop. I just want to get along.

But what kind of service would that be to her? What kind of a person would I be helping shape her to be? I’m certainly paying attention but if I gave in, I’d be doing something wrong. So the fights must continue. For now.

Still. I’ll be happy when her brain catches up with her body and rationality and cooperation prevail again.

Mommy Kisses, Revisited

Hal has a thing about kisses.  He’s kind of particular about them. And leery of them.  I first blogged about it in Mommy Kisses – Cheek or Crown way back in October 2012, just before he turned four years old.

Back then, he’d let me kiss him on the lips but not the cheeks. To be honest, until I reread that post, I had forgotten that I was allowed lip kisses. I thought that the situation now was the same as the situation had been then. It’s been interesting to read what I wrote then and compare it to what’s happening now.

For several months now, Hal has refused to kiss me on the lips. Actually, he has refused to kiss me at all and will only let me kiss him on the cheeks. If I move in for the lip kiss, he turns his head to the side.

We’ve been talking about it. I’ve asked him why. He doesn’t know. Daddy has tried to tell him to kiss me. For the most part, I’ve discouraged that approach. On the one hand, it hurts that he won’t kiss me. On the other hand, I don’t want him to feel compelled. But I’d ask every once in awhile. And cajole. Once I did grab his face and plant a big (dry!) kiss on his lips.

One day, he said, “Ok, ok, here we go” and headed in for a kiss. At the last minute, he diverted to my forehead. And giggled. “Ok, ok, I’m going to try again” and then headed in and… turned quickly to my cheek.

Since then, he’s been gradually working on it without me even bringing it up. He’ll announce he’s going to kiss me, then grab my face and kiss first one cheek, then the other, then my forehead, and then… just when I think he’s not going to… my lips.

It’s turned into a rather fun game. And I am, for the first time in nearly four and a half years, completely relaxed about it. I usually just hug him. And then he does his “sign of the cross” kissing routine on my face. And we laugh. And each time, it gets a little easier and a little more fun.

So I’ll keep my strange little kid and his strange little kissing aversion. Who knows what it will be in another couple of years?