“Give Me Love, Give Me Love, Give Me Peace On Earth” (How To Peace-Out Your Own Family…)

I remember when I was a kid we would start weeks in advance badgering my mother to tell us what she wanted for Mother’s Day. It went without saying she was going to get The Mother’s Day Special – Breakfast in Bed.

Consisting of:

-Eggs cooked to order (but served cold and rubbery)
-Congealed Grits
-Hockey Puck Biscuits (use your back teeth)
-Bacon  (You’ll be cleaning up grease ’til Christmas)

That breakfast fare was going down no matter what. It was a tradition. But we always asked her what else she wanted.

Every single year, without fail, she would request the exact same thing…

All I want for Mother’s Day is Peace and Harmony. I just want everyone in my family to love each other and get along!”

Hmmmm…no can do…what’s your second choice?

I can remember, as a young girl, thinking ‘she must have a tiny screw loose.’ We are offering to buy you a real gift Lady! With your own money! And we will more than likely fight over who got you the best thing. Also a tradition.

My sister sticking her tongue out at me.  Notice the expression of dismay and disappointment on Mom’s face…

Even as we got older, we remained as puzzled as ever by her annual heartfelt request…

Who does she think she is? One of The Beatles?

My siblings and I came of age during the height of this country’s peace movement. We grew up listening to all the hits cranked out by the former Beatles, who couldn’t seem to get along in the original group, but managed to take a stand afterward; constantly beseeching the world for peace after they were solo artists.

They each had a “peace song,” except for John Lennon, who had two.

None of us were averse to giving peace a chance, but we had been saving up our allowances for weeks and, budding Capitalists that we were, we wanted to go to the 5&Dime and give merchandise a chance.

In spite of her stubborn resistance, we managed to give Doris some fabulous gifts through the years:

I made us matching Mother/Daughter halter tops in 1972 during my halter-top making phase. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever seeing Mom in hers, but I sported mine on the dailey.

A few years later, I saved $10 of my babysitting money and bought her a Collector’s Edition Plate from Avon. I rode home from the Avon lady’s house on my bike with the plate in a bag, which slid off my handlebars while I was trying to get my kick-stand down. Mama said the nick “gave the plate character!”

One year my brother, sister and I spent an entire day assembling Mom a scrapbook. We argued loudly and incessantly the entire afternoon over which pictures to include. The oldest child, my sister, always won – So I got the last word years later by writing a blog.

My sister, my brother and me getting scrappy over that scrapbook.

It was a boon if Dad stepped in with financial assistance, because his participation significantly increased our Mother’s Day gift budget. This allowed us to procure:
-perfume she didn’t use (an assault on her sinuses)
-necklaces she rarely wore (moms don’t like heart shaped jewelry as much as people think) and
-outfits she wouldn’t be caught dead in.

But the one thing I know for a fact – we never gave the woman the peace and harmony she so desperately craved.

But it’s okay. They say “Paybacks are Hell.” We are all 3 parents now, beseeching our own kids for peace and harmony.

And,  like The Beatles, we know we will never get it. But we’ll take a strong stand for it, nonetheless.

As we wait patiently for our own kids to be parents.

“I’m Not Talking ‘Bout Moving In And I Don’t Want To Change Your Life” (How To Survive Your College Student’s Temporary Return)

James texting the family for a little love today

Many of us have children returning home from college this week for the entire summer, so in the interest of peace and harmony, it might be a good time to set some boundaries.

Understandably, this can be a very challenging time, as you’ve been on your own since August, living your life however you please…but now your kids are back in the house.

The first time I ever heard the word, “boundaries,” I was running errands and listening to talk radio. (Talk radio in the 90s was affordable therapy and free life-coaching for those of us who married young and couldn’t afford the real thing.)

One day, one of the radio Life-Gurus was talking about “boundaries.” Enthralled, I tuned in. It was an entirely foreign concept to me.

“That is you and yours, this is me and mine. Here is the line you don’t cross!” A simple enough concept about respecting others. But nothing I thought would ever apply to my family.

My husband and I got married before we finished college. We never bothered to establish any pesky boundaries. Partly because it wasn’t a “thing” back then and partly because when you get married that young, you’re almost like siblings.

We have shared everything through the years…

Our morning Coffee
Multiple addresses
Jumbo popcorn at the movies
Influenza and other sundry viruses
Damp bath towels and
Memories

We switch the radio station without even asking and eat off each other’s plates. We also constantly interrupt each other and call it “interactive listening.

We muddled through life and managed okay in our boundary-free existence. And then when the babies came (in droves) we certainly never considered setting any boundaries between ourselves and our tiny issue.  Why would we?

But, things got dicey when our offspring reached their late teens and early twenties. These are the tricky years when our kids feel the need to start asserting their independence and putting up walls. They become less adorable and far less adoring almost overnight.  While this is an essential and requisite part of the maturation process, it’s super difficult.

For the parents.

Mostly because we can’t help but notice all the boundary setting. And it’s shockingly one-sided.

That’s right – our children have attempted to set boundaries for us and when we inevitably trespass, we risk the accusation that we’ve assaulted their fragile and budding adultness. Meanwhile, they traipse around our house dancing all over our rights like hippies at Woodstock in a rainstorm. It’s a bloody free-for-all around here for the millenials.

So I’m determined to be proactive. I’ll start with the following guidelines for peace, but reserve the option to add on as deemed necessary:

-If you put your clothes in my washing machine and that action necessitates moving the previous load into my dryer, which then results in a load of clean dry clothes in need of folding, please fold them. I will do the same for you and I give you my word, by summer’s end, I will have logged more folded loads than everyone in our household combined.

Mom for the win.  Not that it’s a contest.

-If you should return home to find (as Santana sang in the 70s) the house is dark and my pots are cold,” I’m probably hanging out with Jean and Joan and who-knows-who. Please feel free to prepare your own dinner.

-Likewise, if you open the refrigerator or the pantry and don’t find the soy burgers, almond milk or the particular brand of organic granola you prefer, please find your way to the grocery store.  You can leave your receipt on the counter.   Since we don’t eat that crap around here, I tend not to buy it.

And one more thing….as hard as it may be to believe, if my bedroom door is shut, I might just be trying to get away from you. Yes, YOU my pet. So if you perceive an injustice, or have an opposing religious or political viewpoint you want to rail about, consider putting it into a text or an email. I promise to read it and get back to you with a rebuttal.

Lastly, to all my fellow parents out there who, like me, find themselves running a glorified B & B (Bed & Boundaries) this summer, always remember: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s probably your college student.”

“Bad Company Til The Day I Die” (The Fail-Proof Way To Ensure Your Home Is The Local Teen Hang-Out)

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The happiest days of my life were obviously my wedding day and the 5 days I gave birth to my 5 children. Blah-blah-blah. But following those memorable days, suspiciously close, in the number 7 -? slots, are all the glorious days in my life that my cleaning lady comes.

Which is why the verbal exchange I had with my youngest child this morning was so enormously disconcerting.

Son –  giving me a quick hug as he departs for a long and tedious day at the local high school:

Can I have friends over tomorrow night?”

Can you have friends over tomorrow?” I repeat back to him slowly, as though English is not my first language – buying myself some time – while I mentally flip through my glamorous social calendar for any and all unlikely conflicts.

(You never know, it’s possible I could be hosting a large party tomorrow night at our home, which would be entirely incompatible with his plans to have a swarm of teenage boys milling about in our driveway… unless they are a Valet Service.)

But no. So I offered up the only deterrent I could think of.

My cleaning lady is coming tomorrow.”

It has come to my attention lately that we have a large and rowdy group of teenagers at our house every other weekend on the reg. And for some inexplicable reason, these large social gatherings are totally in sync with the schedule my cleaning lady is on. Every other Friday I pay her a handsome amount of money to clean my home and every other Friday, just a few short hours later, these kids arrive to entirely eradicate my bliss.

You just wouldn’t believe the domestic destruction. Every other Saturday morning, my home looks like a hard rock band from the 70s stayed over while blazing their way through a 38-city tour.

But, all of that aside, it was my son’s next utterance that truly filled me with the dismay that only a mother’s heart can know.  I will never be able to un-hear these words:

Do we even really need her?”   

Do we even really need her?” I repeated back slowly.  Again, no comprende.

As I mulled over my response, I realized I wasn’t completely sure if he was suggesting we might not need her tomorrow, as the place looked relatively clean and presentable enough for his friends, or if he might’ve been suggesting that we might not need her EVER.

Perhaps he was insinuating that I could reasonably be expected to handle the deep-cleaning of our abode these days. (Now that all other superfluous offspring are grown and have fled the nest, and we are down to a sensible amount of children) (one) (him).

I could see where he might possibly come to this conclusion, as I was still lying in bed when he came to tell me goodbye this morning, earnestly trying to catch up on the past 30 years of no sleep.

“She needs the money, I can’t cancel on her,” I responded yanking my blanket higher around myself, somewhat defensively.

I don’t really know why I chose to answer in this manner. I just did. I actually have no idea if my cleaning lady needs the money. She might not. It’s entirely possible she shows up here every other Friday purely out of pity for me. I have a knack for bringing that out in people who aren’t my own children.

Rather than turn things around on him and ask if “we really need” a passel of teenagers here tomorrow night, I chose to take the high road and spark an intellectual discourse on Economic Interdependence in a Free Market Society. The very hallmark of superior parenting…or a guilty and exhausted mother.

For whatever reason, he chose not to engage me and left immediately for school.

There’s no way I’m letting go of my cleaning lady.  It could be way worse.  I can assure you, if I was the one solely responsible for cleaning this house, we would never dream of having Bad Company over here for a sleepover. Not the rock group or the local teen-scene.

Nonetheless, I might consider switching my lady to Mondays…

“That’s Why I’m Leaving It All Up To You…”

 

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Here lies “Undecided” 1963-? A Splenda Woman

The very first question everyone asks us when they learn we are going to be grandparents is,

“Have you chosen a name?”

Initially we responded that we were trying to graciously lay low and allow the parents to choose the name for the baby. But that’s not what people were referring to. People are curious if we’ve decided what the baby will be calling US.

This is a thing y’all.

I was hoping I could wait around to hear the first thing the baby calls me and see what sticks? But, apparently people think that’s leaving too much to chance. These days, grandparents choose their own monikers well in advance of the baby’s birth.

That means I have less than 6 months to choose something I can live with for the rest of my life. And also die with. I’m not trying to be morbid, but it recently occurred to me, I’m selecting the name that the majority of people attending my funeral will  bury me with.

It might even go inside quotation marks on my tombstone right under my legal name. The pressure is on.

It was a cinch to select a name for my husband. His dad, who is no longer with us, was “Papa Joe,” so it was a short leap to “Papa Jim.”  Easy-peasy.

But what about me?

A few of the more obvious choices are taken. Mimi and Grandma are our mothers, the Great-Grandmothers . They’re both alive and kickin’ – true forces of nature. I have no plans to fill their shoes, much less co-opt their names.

Nana is out too, as it has already been chosen by my grand-baby’s other grandmother.  And also my husband’s grandmother, who at 102, plans to outlive us all.

With those classics spoken for, I’m forced to consider some of the outlying options bordering on the fringes of acceptability. Here are a few of the common categories:

 

Terms of Endearments:

Some people have converted “terms of endearment” into grandmother names, such as “Honey,” “Babe” and “Sugar.”  I think those are all really cute. God knows I love my sweets. But if we’re being completely authentic here, I’m actually addicted to Splenda. Try that name on for size…

Splenda was such a wonderful woman. She would’ve done anything for us!”

As splendid as it sounds, I’m going to have to pass.

 

Nicknames:

As a redhead I have gone by many nicknames, mostly referring to my physical features. “Carrot Top” is just rude, but I guess “Ginger” is an option. At least it’s PR for the blog.  Jimmy has always called me “Tiny Red,” so that is certainly a name I answer to. But I’m not sure I like how the two names sound together when I try it out in my mind.

My daughter saying to her baby:
“Go change for dinner, Papa Jim and Tiny Red are meeting us at the restaurant!”

It sounds too much like 1920s gangsters or maybe Rap Artists. I don’t want to scare the kid. Besides, trying to stay Tiny and Red all my life sounds like a lot of dieting and hair dye.
Names That Date You:

The weekend we told my mother about the baby, she had the audacity to high-5 me and call me, “Granny!” I’m pretty sure she was just kidding, but I instantly knew I could never abide a name that sounds too old or hillbillyish.  That goes for “Maw-Maw” and “Mee-Maw.  They are off the table, as well.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a few friends have suggested “Glam-ma.” I guess that name is trending now in the world of rhinestone handbags and tee shirts, but I’m more of a Birkenstock, tie-dye, turquoise type. I don’t think I want to try that hard to be blingy.

So that leaves me entirely undecided. I guess it’s going to be up to some silly baby I’ve only just met, who barely knows me, to name me off the cuff…

Here lies Undecided
A Wonderful Woman Who Would’ve Done Anything For Her Grandkids
(Except pick a name for herself)
May She Rest In Peace

“People Smile And Tell Me I’m The Lucky One, Life’s Just Begun…” (Getting On Board With Grandma!)

Anxiously awaiting the Gender Reveal – bout to get my Grandma Game on!

I’m not saying I didn’t want to be a grandma, just that I didn’t WANT to be a grandma. Like it wasn’t a  burning yearning.

Which is in direct contrast to my own mother circa 1980s. On my wedding day, Doris followed me and my husband around our reception asking us when we planned to have children. Now there was a woman who fiercely wanted to be a grandmother. As she would admit in her strong southern drawl, she “made no bones about it!”  Y’all know how it was back then:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Insert-Name with a baby carriage!”

You couldn’t even catch your breath. There wasn’t much of a break in between milestone life events.

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Me and Insert Name bringing home baby.  Barely shook the rice out of our hair! Note the “Baby On Board!” sign. A staple in the 80s.

But when my baby initiated the idea of having a baby, I tried to get on board. Like those placards everyone hung up in the back window of their cars that said, “Grandma On Board!” Wait never mind, that was “Baby On Board!” But you get the idea, when your baby wants a baby, you want it too.

Ya know, for them.

After more than a year of ups and downs, starts and stops, juice cleanses, acupuncture and several novenas, we have a baby coming.

Ever since I found out what was about to happen to me, I’ve been conducting my own field research – interviewing other women-whose-children-have-children (a lengthy, but infinitely more polite way to say “grandmothers”) to gauge how they feel about the whole grand-parenting experience.

The reactions were nothing short of astounding.  People are into this Doris-style!

Eventually, I started asking about it with my nose crinkled up, shaking my head “no” in an effort to curb their enthusiasm. But even that didn’t seem to temper people’s responses.

In fact, I haven’t gotten one lukewarm response yet. No one is ambivalent on the topic.  Here’s what people have to say about the experience:

Grandchildren are the best!”
“You’re so lucky! There’s no feeling like it in the world!”
“You’re going to love it so much!”

A few of my interview subjects even went so far as to say it was going to change my life(?)   Another friend told me yesterday, when she has her grandchildren in her arms, it’s like “holding heaven!” But not one person shrugged their shoulders and said, “Eh it’s ok.”

I don’t know what it is, but the “grandchildren thing” seems to elicit some type of euphoria.  Like seratonin or endorphins. Stuff an ambitious person can get from pills or exercise.

It wasn’t long before people started telling me I would love my grandchildren more than I loved my own children. That’s just taking things a bit too far. If that’s the case, then it stands to reason I’ll have to be worried about them too…

That really started me worrying. So I checked in with my friend who has older grandchildren and more tenure.

Will I experience the same unrelenting anxiety and worry over grandchildren that I’ve had with my kids?”

She assured me I would indeed.

That hardly seems seem fair.  Saturday night I didn’t go to sleep until after midnight for all the anxiety-induced parenting responsibilities. I was back up at 3 am counting sleeping heads in my media room. It wasn’t even prom or anything. Just a routine Saturday night at our place.

I have a feeling my friend is spot-on about the anxiety, angst and worry. I just hope it’s balanced out by all the extra joy-infused serotonin and endorphins.

Either way, just to keep my bases covered, I think I should keep working out.

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Doris (aka Grandma) was always “On Board!”

“Have You Seen Her?” (The Night My Children Issued A Ginger Alert)

I’ve been awoken by all manner of things throughout my tenure as a mom:

-Phones ringing
-Children mauling  (me or one another)
-Dogs barking
-Toddlers itching
-Teens retching

Yet nothing prepared me for the first words I heard out of my husbands mouth yesterday…

What did you do to our children last night?” He asked, staring in disbelief at a group text on his cell phone.

Nothing! Why? What? I’ve been right here sleeping!” I snapped, making a grab for his phone so I could see what the heck he was referring to.

He turned his body just out of my reach, “They’re pretty freaked out!” he continued, scrolling through the exchange.

I gave up trying to confiscate his phone and fumbled around the nightstand for mine.

Sure enough, he was right. There was indeed a frantic series of messages in our family group chat, whereby my children were searching high and low for THEIR VERY OWN MOTHER!

A Ginger Alert had been issued in the wee hours of the morning by a sibling.

As I scanned their conversation, my empathy grew. Been there, felt that. I could totally relate.

“Has anyone heard from Mom?” texted my 19 year old son. “She said she was on her way here over an hour ago and she never arrived. And, she’s not answering her cell!”

At this point his siblings helpfully recollected their most recent interactions with me. One offered up a slightly stale memory of a lecture I delivered hours earlier, while another vividly recalled a money transfer I made into their account somewhere between 8 and 9 pm.

They all remembered me fondly, but no one had seen or heard from me since around 10:30. Not since I texted my son that I was getting out of bed, changing out of my pajamas and meeting him an hour away at a bar in College Town.

I can explain.

It’s Mom’s weekend down at the university. Lots of fun mother/child events planned – I’ve been following it on Facebook with joyful anticipation since February.

I was completely stoked, until my son reminded me that he was in a stage show that had performances slated every few hours throughout the entire weekend. So naturally, I bought tickets to the matinee on Saturday and crumpled up my registration form for all the other fun events I would not be enjoying with my son-gone-performer.

Around 10:30 Friday night, I texted him to see how the evening’s performance went, only to find out he had changed his mind about attending the first event. He had strolled over to a bar and was the, “only boy there without a mom.

How it pained me to think of my little boy at a bar orphaned and “momless!” (His word – hand to heart) Never mind that the previous night I was on the phone with him until midnight co-editeding an Economics paper he had due in the morning.

 

That’s when I thought it would be amusing to tease, “I’m on my way, just as fast as I can change out of my jammies!” I followed that by textmonishing him to, “tell the other moms how helpful I was with your paper last night!”

Somehow, he didn’t detect my tongue-in-cheekiness, and a few hours later he was worried sick.

And he wasn’t the only one. My youngest went outside and surveyed the driveway, attempting to reassure everyone, “Her car is here!”

But that was insufficient for the older siblings. His big sister text-shouted,

GO INTO MOM AND DAD’S ROOM RIGHT THIS MINUTE AND CHECK IF SHE IS IN HER BED!!!

So, there I sat the next morning,  drinking my coffee, perusing the aftermath of texts, riddled with guilt.

For about a minute.

Until it hit meMY kids were looking for someone who said they were going to be somewhere by sometime o’clock, who then no-showed and was now NOT answering their cell?  In a million weekend nights we could never be even for all the sleepless hours  I have endured worrying about them.

As an added bonus, I got additional delight picturing their precious faces as it dawned on them – with mom gone, the remainder of their collective upbringings would be in the hands of Dad. Just Dad.  That’s 50% of the Bad Cop/Good Cop Parenting Formula.

As in Bad Cop only.

“We’re so screwed” they surely must’ve thought. We must find her.

Ginger Alert- I had lunch with a couple of friends a few days earlier and we discussed the challenges of building empathy in our children. While I certainly didn’t set out purposely to create a life lesson here, I admit I’ll take all the help I can get.

 

“Little Pink Houses” (How I Got My Marriage Off To A Peachy Start…)

I wonder how many times we moved before I finally thought to label the box so it would go straight to the attic?

It’s wedding season. Not only is this the time of year people get married, but it’s also the season of my life when a lot of my friends’ kids are getting married. So, I’m spending a lot of time hanging out online perusing (and apparently judging) wedding registries.

You can tell a lot about a girl’s plans by her wedding registry.   So representative of the elegant life the young bride is envisioning for herself. So sweet, so naive, so hopeful.

I couldn’t help but find myself wondering how these girls might feel in about 30 years about the items they registered.

Take my registry (circa 1984) for example:

I registered for pink china. In my defense, pink was considered rather chic in 1984.  I wouldn’t go so far as to claim the color was a neutral, but it did pair nicely with navy and mint green – my accent colors. I registered and received several thousand dollars worth of china that I’ve used twice in 33 years. Once for an Easter dinner and once for an “It’s a Girl!” themed baby shower.

I notice a lot of today’s sophisticated young brides are opting for cream or white dinnerware.  At least they learned something from the 80s.

The crystal I selected was equally lovely. The bowl was a clear lead crystal with a frosted pink tulip-style stem.  Guaranteed to look lovely with my china pattern.

Mind you, these selections were made before Pink Zinfandel burst forth on the wine scene as “affordable and approachable,” (a perfect pour in my pink stemware) but after John Mellencamp’s  “Pink Houses” (1984) became a hit and a potential lifestyle choice.

I did manage to use my crystal more than I used my fine china. It was all broken by our fourth move and/or our third child.

No matter!  By the 90s, pink had become synonymous for Breast Cancer Awareness and jewel tones were all the rage on the domestic front.

I went to Pier 1 at some point along the way and bought a box of plastic wine glasses I thought were classier than drinking Franzia straight out of the plastic spigot attached to the box.

One of my Bridal Showers was themed, “Anything Peach!” You guessed it – guests were invited to bring a gift that was peach colored. That’s a tall order. Looking back, I bet some chics were pretty darn annoyed. I received a ton of peach towels and sheets which, quite frankly, clashed with all my pink.

I also registered something my mom called “Silver Plate” eating utensils. It was considered nicer than Oneida stainless, but not nearly as expensive as sterling silver. My mom felt certain I could get all 12 place settings required to be a happy housewife. I got 7, so Doris insisted on helping me “complete the service” for the next few birthdays and Christmases.

On my next birthday, I turned 22 and the bloom was literally off the rose. I was completely over the bridal thing.  Not to portray myself as a diva, but I remember really wanting clothes and boots on those occasions more than 2 forks, 2 spoons and a knife. Even if they were coated with real silver.

Determined not to let my eating utensils go the way of my china and crystal, I actually used it as my “Everyday.” (A term my mom uses to distinguish ordinary, average days from the days in which I entertained formally…)

Which was never.

The last time I saw a piece of my “Silver Plate,” it was 1/2 buried in our sandbox in Phoenix.

This is not to say that I didn’t accidentally register for and receive some practical and useful gifts. My cousin gave me a cheese slicer. I can’t believe I still have it. I think of her every time I use it.

Which is often, because cheese goes well with a cold box of wine.

I’m not casting aspersions on anyone else’s hopes and dreams. I ordered all 6 of my 2017 brides something elegant off their registry. I’m merely suggesting, in 10 or 15 years it could very well end up in their sandbox.