Mom, today is your birthday… I am remembering your smile, the way you hysterically laughed at your own jokes, the way your lips pursed when you were upset, and the way only your bottom teeth were visible when you talked when you were really mad. Or your face that time when you danced with the kids in the family room while playing the tambourine and blowing the recorder like someone was paying you handsomely to do it… I still belly laugh watching the home movies.
And, I. Miss. You. … Quietly and slowly, sadness hugs my heart and squeezes out tears. I breathe in love and breathe out sadness. It’s a release, and all at once the wave of grief crashes and it’s gone. There doesn’t even have to be a reason or a season … and sometimes the wave comes almost like you want to remind me that you … well, that you are still here.
I felt you as I walked through the mall last season I passed the Ice Palace, and my mind’s eye flooded with movies that played as the smell of the ice almost caressed my cheek – you used to do the fanciest “figure skating” moves, and I remembered this one moment as you reached between your feet to grab Jodie’s hands so you could pull her through your legs in one triumphant swoop and then twirl her around (as was the routine we worked on for MINUTES). All the Cinnabons that were ingested earlier that day must have reached your trouser area, for as you reached down for Jodie’s fingers you split your pants from stem to stern. I didn’t know it then, but I was grateful for granny panties shielding the public from a sight that could never again be unseen. You skated off – covered by a donated jacket – and went to purchase new pants. You came back with black pants that were pinstriped with a delicate gold thread. We later sat in Europa Cafe enjoying virgin drinks and laughed off the embarrassment. I bought a pair similar for a Christmas party YEARS later, and funny enough I remember splitting the seam.
So, if we were to chat on your birthday, I would want to tell you:
This year has been a tricky one… with all kinds of kid stuff and health stuff and career stuff.
I have been blessed, as you were, with two daughters … should we say “blessed”? I mean if we are talking as adults can we say challenged, cursed or charged with “daughters” … … just sayin, 😉
I would want to thank you for all the lessons and love; you loved me through and taught me through A LOT! I can understand only after having an 18 year old how difficult it must have been to sign the papers allowing me to get married. Only after having a 14 year old I can understand how upsetting it must have been to have your 14 year old be sexually active. I remember how old I felt in those moments (at the ripe ‘ol ages of 14 & 18) and I want to sincerely apologize for losing my footing in reality. I made you a Nana, and I don’t believe you were even 40 years old yet (I was 19). I look at my little family, and I cannot imagine my children making the choices I did.
I look in the mirror ,examine my aging reflection, and I certainly do NOT feel ready to be a NANA! Although, SOMEDAY I will be Nannie and Mike will be Pops – we’ve decided that much ;-).
I would want to laugh with you over a microwaved cup of coffee (we could choose from any one of the 6 half drunk cups you left lying around on a regular basis) as you compare me to my girls and put your arm around me and say “not to worry; you turned out ok and you did way worse.” I would cry as I am now, because I miss you, and for the first time in years I feel like I need you.
Mom, did you know that being the mom of teenagers is a secret? When you get pregnant you want to tell everyone, and EVERYONE has advice. Mom and baby groups abound, and we all pass our wisdom, struggles, wins, losses, laughs and tears around the circle.
Let’s think back to the MOMENT I got pregnant- people started giving me advice, reaching across the counter at the bank to touch the baby. When I gave birth I had all the nurses and doctors, well meaning mentor grannies and tribal medicine women lining up to bestow their wisdom upon me (I needed it; I was 19. ) Then there were the mommy and me groups -I never really fit, but we would talk about how and what the babies were eating and what was “normal” or “OK” colic remedies, cough and cold cures, cradle cap ointments, etc. Then, social development: we had playmates and sports and reading classes, strollerscize… our 8 month olds were BUUaAzZY . Then, school and parent groups, dance moms, cheer moms, youth group moms… We all talked about which one of the girls had her period, who was fighting with whom, academic development, etc, etc… Then they enter into this stage where it is no longer our story to tell … it’s THEIRS, and our experiences as parents are actually secondary to them experiencing THEMSELVES . AND, if I share with my peers about their stuff, I have in that moment made myself an unsafe confidante to my teenager. …
Now forgive my language here, but seriously, Mom, how fucked up is that? Just when you are the only person I am allowed to talk to (as stated by my teenage law handbook) YOU aren’t here!? Just when the serious SHIET hits the fan … serious life changing SHIET … Like cutting, depression, suicide, eating disorders, sex, STD’s, boyfriends, letting go, career decision etc etc … TRULY, I could have waded through the muck of colic and diapers alone in exchange for your support now.
I imagine a sanctioned support group for Parents of Teens:
Me: “My name is Joy and I am the mom of teenagers.”
Leader: Can everyone say “HI Joy!?”
Why isn’t there a group, a support hall where we can all get together and, I dunno, share parenting ideas or, I dunno, “how to hide a body tips for dummies”?
… Or instead of a clothing swap, couldn’t we do a kid swap (we would of course trade back) , but pull cards like:
“Today who has the patience for the gamer child that won’t leave the house and in fact will join him just in case he is being cyber bullied?
“Next up we have grade 8 science homework – is anyone from NASA here?” (truly, have you seen that crap??!)
“Next we have over achiever sports kid that has 20 different locations to be at today and is already 10 minutes late and still needs a meal- John If you get that flux capacitor working this would be a perfect job for you?.. – Next time buddy”
“Next we have unstable teen – current mood is self entitlement – takers? I need a prison guard or a therapist?”
You get my point … We could all talk and strategize- the parent that had the skill set that best aligned with the current state of “teen” would take over. We would have a team of peeps (I’ve had a lot of convos with my teens lately, and I have just realized I am writing how they talk …. -well, this. is. happening.
I digress; my question is “Can we have a group???”
But then if I really thought about it, do I want a group of people knowing EVERYTHING my teens are struggling with?
They don’t know them the way I do – the way YOU did … They weren’t there for the “save the ladybug” campaign of 1999, they didn’t witness the meltdown of 2002 when the robin hit the window and we brought it into the house in a shoebox and put it in the oven -on WARM (don’t freak out and hate-mail me). Both girls sat and looked in the oven window and pray-cried for him to live (he did). They weren’t there for the Blue’s Clues gift of 2000 and what a huge grateful heart lives in that tiny frame. They didn’t see how gentle they were with the new puppy, or how loving she was with her baby sister. They didn’t see the childhood belly laughs and love of life exhibited. They weren’t there when she stopped the other kids from bullying her best friend, and they didn’t see the bruises all over her torso when she got bullied herself…
Will they see them past the choices of the now…. Do I?
Can I see past the now and remember, feel into who they really are?
I keep asking myself: what would love say? What would love do? … Sometimes I just can’t answer that anymore … I feel tired and lost and drained – I feel like I need my mom.
So Mom, on your birthday (March 22) can I first of all apologize for the grey hair I gave you, for being angry that you talked to your mom about me *I understand now* and can I just say I forgive you for adding me to the Prayer Chain which is now lovingly referred to as a “Well meaning rumor mill” ?
AND as I lean into this embrace, THANK YOU for seeing me; even when I lost myself , you remembered me. Thank you for choosing to see past my choices and rather look to who I genuinely was/am. And thank you for leading by example, so I can now see my teenagers past the choices of NOW and remember who they are… loving, caring, gentle -spirited, kind, determined, smart, courageous, funny, beautiful – spirited young women.
And I will continue to secretly be the mom of teenagers.