Am I Wearing A ‘Kick Me’ Sign?

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Lately I find myself grabbing at the back of my shirt, in search of the “Kick Me!” sign that I am oh, so certain I am going to find there. What other reason could there be for people to feel that it is perfectly reasonable to do just that. Kick me, that is.

I spend far too much time while I am at work wrestling to get my emotions under control. Not bursting into tears, not coming apart at the seams, and not flying off the handle is, in fact, hard work. If you think it isn’t, try it.

I come in from work most afternoons looking like I have been in an actual wrestling match. My hair is all over the place. My feet and hips are aching. My hands are numb. My make-up looks like it was applied by someone who either uses or is in dire need of a seeing eye dog. In short, I look like I feel, which is like I have been kicked around some.

Sometimes I cry on the way home. Sometimes I am on the bus when I burst into tears. Sometimes a kind stranger offers the crazy, crying lady a tissue. Sometimes this restores my faith in humanity.

I dry my eyes. I vow to soldier on. To buck up. To stop acting like a child. To, at the very least, stop crying on the bus.

So what if I work two dead-end jobs? Who cares. At least I have two jobs. At least I can pay my kid’s tuition.

So what if my husband won’t pick me up from my second job and I have to take the bus in the pouring rain. At least there is a bus. At least there is someone on the bus who has the sense to carry tissues. As I signal a “thank you” with my crumpled Kleenex, I tell myself to stop being an ungrateful bitch.

And I try. To be grateful. I really do.

And then something happens that causes me to become unglued. Again.

Tonight it was my kid texting me to stop tagging her “constantly” in Facebook posts; to stop responding to the things she posts. Clearly I don’t understand social media. I thought that was what we were supposed to do. Engage.

Imagine my surprise then when my response of “LOL” to her posting of an article from “The Onion” — a publication near and dear to the both of us — caused her to text me (TEXT ME!) that I needed to “stop tagging her in all sorts of posts and to stop responding to her posts”.

For the record, I tagged her in three posts in five days, one of which was a status update that referred to how I was counting down the days until I would see her again. She responded with hearts. The other two were to draw her attention to things that I thought she would find humorous; I found them humorous. We do, in fact, tend to find the same things funny.

Finals are on the horizon. I know that she has been studying a lot. I was just trying to give her a chuckle or two. It was my way of letting her know that I was on her side, that I was thinking about her. Obviously, in addition to being an ungrateful bitch, I am also an insensitive asshat.

Just before I burst into tears I did manage to dash off a very mature text. It simply said, “Wow”. To her credit, she responded. “Im sry”. Yeah. Okay. Whatever.

I know she is sorry. She probably even thinks that saying it negates the hurtful thing that prompted the apology. It doesn’t.

I’ll get over it. I’ll soldier on. I’ll buck up. I’ll stop acting like a child  (although it would be helpful if people stopped treating me like one).  I’ll even try to stay on top of how much I engage with my daughter on Facebook.

And, once I stop crying,  I’m sure I’ll be able to forgive her. I’m sure I will.


(I know what you’re thinking. I ought to share this on Facebook and “tag” her, but I won’t.)

To be fair, my husband usually does pick me up from work… there was this one night, though… LOL!

 

 

 

 

The Sophomore Drop-Off: What a Difference a Year Makes

sophomoredropoffIn one week we will, once again, be leaving our daughter—the always delightful Fangette— in the wilds of Vermont where she will attempt, no doubt successfully, to complete her second  year of college. I am not looking forward to it.

What a difference the year has made—for all of us. A  year ago I could hardly wait to be rid of her. In the weeks and months that preceded her departure for college she had become, to put it bluntly (and mildly), a royal pain in the ass. We were both ready, or so I thought, to put four-hundred miles between us.

That I became borderline clinically depressed in the weeks that followed her departure came as a surprise to me. I knew I would miss her. After all, pain in the ass or not, I love my kid. Still, I was wholly unprepared for the level of separation anxiety that I would experience.

I could not go into her room without bursting into tears. The cereal aisle in the grocery store prompted the same response. While I could avoid the aisle, I could not help but spy her favorite cereal in someone else’s cart. Blurry-eyed, I would march down the aisle, pick up the cereal, and include it in one of the many care packages that I would send over the course of those first few harrowing weeks that she was away.

These packages included her favorite foods (butter cookies in the blue tin!), items of clothing that I decided that she should not be without (snazzy socks!), and, of course, blank cards that I would inscribe with heartfelt sentiments (“We love you!”; “We miss you!”; “We’re so proud of you!”). To insure that she at least opened the cards, I resorted to sticking money in them—and notifying her via text that the cards “just might contain a ‘surprise’, LOL!”.

I have no idea if she read them. She never mentioned their contents. Had she not texted a cursory “Thanks for the $20, Mom!” message, I would never have known that they had been opened.

In hindsight I can admit that the packages were not for her. They were for me. They—the cookies, the socks, the cards—were my way of maintaining our connection, a connection which suddenly felt in danger of slipping away.

We visited in October. She came home for short periods in November, December, and March. With each visit I noted a change in my daughter. While I spent our time apart floundering, she used that time more wisely. She flourished.

She did not return for the summer, as I had feared she might, a stranger. Instead, she arrived happy and much more fully formed than I could ever have imagined. Being away certainly softened some of her sharper edges.

I can honestly report that I like her now, just as much as I have loved her always. That being said, I have no idea how I will feel next week when she returns to school. Absent the worries about how she will fare, knowing that she will be fine, will I fare better? Will I be fine?

Time will tell. In the spirit of preparedness I have laid in a supply of sappy cards and put away a few crisp twenties just in case I feel the need to unnecessarily remind her that we love her, that we miss her, and that we are proud of her.

The “One Thing” I Got Right as a Parent

NaBloPoMo14DayThirtyMy daughter, the always delightful Fangette, paid me (and her father) a compliment the other day. Fair warning, don’t get too excited or verklempt before you hear it. She said, and I quote, “the one thing you people got right was that you didn’t raise a racist”.

I suppose if we had to get “one thing right”, that would be it. I’d like to think that we got a few other things right, too. Still, a compliment from a teenager is a compliment from a teenager. One cannot get too excited about its content. I said, “you’re welcome”. My plan was to leave it at that.

I knew where it was coming from. It came very shortly after the Ferguson verdict. An issue that Fangette was, to put it mildly, worked up about. To add insult to injury, I gathered — from snippets of conversations — that some of her friends were not as horrified by the outcome as Fangette was and, in turn, thought they should be. This is how it came to pass that Fangette, possibly for the first time in her life, realized that not all of her friends and acquaintances shared her exact politics. For the record, my daughter may, in fact, be more liberal than her mother. And, that’s saying something.

Fangette’s first reaction was to label some of them racists. I thought this was unfair. I argued that how we as a society view “otherness” is steeped in far more than our politics. I took the time to remind her that just because some of her peeps were not outraged, were supportive of law enforcement, or were simply keeping their mouths shut, did not necessarily mean they were racists. Further, to cast them as such did them — and her — a grave injustice.

I pointed out that there were any number of people posting the same things on social media — the same memes — as her friends were. She suggested I “unfriend” all of these folks immediately.

I did not do that, nor will I. I am of the opinion that everyone has a right to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t have to agree with me. We can still be friends. I wouldn’t marry them or anything, but luckily for me — and for them — that is not even at issue.

Does it drive me a little crazy sometimes that some of the people that I know post things that sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Do I say anything to them? Not usually. Has it occurred to me that it’s just possible that only I find some of these things ridiculous? Of course it has.

What I’ve come to realize in my middle age is that friends are hard to come by. Good friends are even more difficult to find and to hold onto. And, do you want to know something? If it weren’t for social media, Facebook especially, it is entirely possible that I would never know anyone’s politics. In my world, politics rarely comes up in conversation.

I have never, for the record, seen any of the people who tend to trot out their right-wing views on Facebook, act anything but kind and generous in their “real” lives. I have never heard them utter a racial slur. They seem fine with their children having friends and other relationships with all sorts of people who are not white. They have similar relationships themselves. Why they choose to post what they post to their Facebook pages is beyond me. But, it’s a free country, right? Who am I to criticize?

Young people are quick, I think, to scratch people from their lives because they don’t share their same zeitgeist. Call me crazy (or tolerant), but I think listening to the views of others, especially when they bring a different perspective, is a good thing. Or, at least I always did. Now? I don’t know. Maybe tolerance is a thing of the past.

I hope not, though.  Because if it is, there are quite a few people I’m going to sorely miss having in my life. I do know a few left-wing nutjobs, but I don’t like them half as much as I like the people who don’t always share my political beliefs.

I have reached the conclusion that as long as they’re fine with who I am, then I can be fine with who they are. If that makes me — as my daughter intimated that it does — a hypocrite, so be it. I suppose that as long as I’m a hypocrite who did “one thing right” as a parent, I can live with that, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the Becoming

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyEightEveryone told me that I would see a significant change in my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, when she returned from college for Thanksgiving break. I didn’t believe them. I am that person who needs to see it, touch it, feel it for myself. And I have. She is (almost) a different person.

What can I say? I am a skeptic. Especially when it comes to parenting. I listen to the sage words of others, I just don’t necessarily believe what they’re saying. Even though history has proven them right. About (almost) everything.

Although I should certainly know better, I, too, waste my breath giving unsolicited advice which falls on the deaf ears of younger parents. I understand. They shake their heads in agreement, but their eyes tell another story. Their eyes say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll just see about that!” Perhaps it’s just me? Maybe I just run with a crowd of polite cynics. I don’t think so, though.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to impart some of the wisdom that I have gained in my eighteen years of parenting. I have managed to raise an intelligent, socially adept young woman. As if to prove my parenting prowess, my own progeny was sitting beside me carrying on an adult conversation with another human being. She had also successfully dress herself that morning.

I laughingly told my cousin (the mother of a pre-schooler and a toddler) who was chagrined at her younger child’s inability to identify certain letters, most colors, and stay within the lines as he decorated a Thanksgiving turkey (or, as he called it a “chicken” — I told him that he was just being silly, that every little schoolboy knows that chickens do NOT wear Pilgrim hats!) that she needn’t worry about this, that, or the other thing, that her child would put it all together at some point. Mine did. And, I pointed out, her older one, seemed just fine. I made a motion to indicate that my kid, no coloring genius herself, had, seemingly, turned out, in my humble opinion, more than fine. All evidence to the contrary, my cousin still seemed worried about the little guy.

I jokingly remarked that perhaps the little one just didn’t care. He’s got a sunny, vibrant personality. And, let me just add, he’s cute as a damn button. Those attributes ought to get him somewhere. So what if he can’t spell, discern purple from blue, or identify fowl? It’s likely, even if he never masters any of these skills, that he, too, will be just fine. It’s also probable that, when the spirit moves him or it matters to him, that he will demonstrate proficiency at these and other important tasks. Right now, though, he just wants to live in a world where The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are real. Me, too.

It was during my tete-a-tete with my cousin that I noticed that my father — a man who wouldn’t win any spelling competitions himself — was hanging around the perimeter of the conversation. He made a gesture. He was, I realized, pointing at his nose. What, I wondered, was he trying to convey to me? And then it hit me.

My daughter came home from college sporting a nose ring. What he was trying to tell me was that, perhaps, the mother of a nose-piercer shouldn’t be doling out any parenting advice. I just rolled my eyes at him and told him, none too quietly, that “tomorrow we’re all getting matching tattoos, Da”. I may have asked him if he wanted to join us. And then I laughed and gave him my best “West of Ireland sigh”. He may have thought me serious otherwise.

I tell you this story not to give the impression that my father is a humorless and intolerant curmudgeon, which he can be, but can’t we all? I tell you this story because it says a lot about how our relationship has evolved over the years. More to the point, it says a lot about how I have changed.

The fact that I laughed. The fact that I chose to interpret his gesture as a light ribbing, which I am fairly certain it was meant to be, instead of “fightin’ words”, speaks volumes about who I presently am.

Not so long ago I would have been angry with him. (And, probably, by extension, with the daughter.) I would have felt harshly criticized and, yes, judged. Now? Not so much. I honestly thought it was funny that he could get worked up over something as ridiculous as a tiny hoop earring in the nose of a college student.

Also, because my daughter is now 18 years old, I no longer feel responsible for what she pierces or tattoos. And, you wanna know what? I kind of like it. I was kidding when I told my father that we were getting tattoos, but I am toying with the idea of getting my eyebrow re-pierced. I let it close long ago. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

Having my daughter home from college has been wonderful. A blessing. I missed her terribly. I will miss her when she leaves on Sunday. I do love the person who is emerging, though — nose ring and all. I am enjoying the new relationship that she and I seem to be forging. It’s freeing to break out of our old roles.

Snappy retorts to criticism and eyebrow piercings, aside, I’ve been rethinking a lot of things lately, most of them to do with my daughter. Mainly, what my ruminations have uncovered is that it is comforting to worry less about who she might become and concentrate, instead, on who she is today.

Getting to this place is a journey and one that we all must take ourselves. Some of us will arrive at our destination sooner, rather than later, but, like learning our colors or our alphabet, there’s no hard and fast timetable for it, really. Telling someone this, especially a newer parent, is an exercise in futility.

As far as I know my daughter has a handle on her colors and her alphabet; my cousin’s son will get there, too. We all learn the stuff we need to know eventually. Me? I’ve learned to laugh more and stress less. Mostly, though, I’ve learned that sometimes, as a parent, the nicest part of the job is when you can let go, sit back, and enjoy the becoming.

Wrong Choice, Wrong Reason

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Putting decision-making power in the hands of an 18-year-old feels counterintuitive. Perhaps that’s because it is. Or, perhaps, it’s just my kid that this applies to. Somehow, though, I don’t think so.

At present we are engaged in whittling down her college choices. Unfortunately, it comes down to money. More specifically it’s about where she’ll get the most education for the least amount of money.

As it happens, as it always seems to happen, the college that she prefers would leave her in about $70,000 worth of debt at the end of four years. The college that we would rather she attend will leave her with ZERO debt at the end of four years. My husband and I think this is a no-brainer.

There are, of course, other variables to consider. The zero debt college has smaller class sizes — important in any area, but, we think, even more so for anyone seeking a science-related degree. Their facilities are newer. By all accounts their instructors are first-rate, top notch, if you will. Students also seem to enjoy a higher rate of success in its nursing program, if graduation rates and national board scores are any indication of this, which, we think, they are.

So, what’s the problem, you ask? As I see it, it’s two-fold.

First and foremost, this school is only 15 miles from our home. In a nod to compromise, we have not only agreed to allow her to live on campus, but to fund it, as well. If she lived home it would literally cost us nothing to send her there, but we want her to have, as much as possible, the “college experience”. We want her to be happy. Whatever that is.

The second reason that she is resisting this school? I graduated from there. This fact is not exactly a selling point. As you all well know, I’m a complete and utter failure. I’m just a lowly waitress.

We have sat her down, explained to her why we think the in-State college is the better choice, for reasons both financial and educational. We have explained that for $70,000 she can buy herself a Tesla (her dream car) or she can owe that same money to the leeches who provide student loans — the bankers, the government. Again, it seems like a no-brainer to her father and I.

Still, she views this institute of higher learning with disdain. After all, if I was awarded a degree from there, it can’t possibly be that good. (It is, by the way, THAT good.)

Alternately I feel like throttling her and like crying. Luckily, I’m a fully-formed person who understands that neither of these activities will do either of us any good.

What scares me most is that ultimately it is her decision. While her attitude toward me is both hurtful and disappointing, what’s worse is knowing that she may make the wrong choice and that she will do so for all the wrong reasons.



photo credit: thumbs down