Not to oversimplify the fine art of parenting, (which I typically prefer to over-complicate) But, you can divide all of your offspring in to two distinct developmental categories:
-children young enough to be distracted from their woes by a HAPPY MEAL
-all the rest
I told a couple of my friends at lunch today that “Having 5 kids was thoroughly optimistic!”
They thought this statement was hilarious, but I really wasn’t kidding. Why would anyone voluntarily subject their life, much less their mood swings, to that level of vulnerability? The only reasonable justification that comes to mind is that, when I got them, they were very small. They had limited exposure to the outside world, thus they experienced minimal stress and I could easily solve all of their tiny problems…
We are all familiar with that bogus saying floating around out there, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy”. Obviously, some guy thought of it and convinced people to print it on coffee mugs and tee shirts. REAL mothers know that this is a total crock . What’s closer to the truth is that “A Mother Is Only As Happy As Her Most Unhappy Child.”
Translation: We hardly EVER get to be happy and carefree for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. And, the bigger the family, the more the odds are stacked against you. Someone is always circling the drain around here.
But yesterday was sort’ve looking up for me.
-a couple of my blogs were syndicated just in time for my birthday
– my tennis balls were bouncing mostly in the court
-the laundry was caught up
– the sun was shining
– bluebirds were singing on my shoulder
Okay, maybe not the bluebirds, but it was going to be hard to bring me down. I even decided to drive the convertible with the top down to my birthday lunch; let the wind blow my 50-something birthday hair around.
Ironically, I was rocking down the interstate to Tom Petty, “Here Comes My Girl,” when here came one of my girls. The radio was so loud I missed her call. The call was quickly followed by this text-
If you’ve ever tried to provide counseling services to a young adult while zipping down the highway in a convertible, with your radio blaring, I know you’re feelin’ my pain right about now….
Distraught Kid – “Hello!”
Happy Mom- “Hey Honey!”
Distraught Kid- “You’ll never believe what happened!”
Formerly Happy Mom- “Uh-oh, What happened?”
She proceeded to tell me about a Big Girl Situation that was unraveling on her. I pulled over at the next exit and put the top up, so I could hear her better. Please appreciate the symbolism, here, as a little metaphorical cloud of darkness crept over me, shadowing my birthday joy.
To be completely fair though, I must laud the fact that my children are aware and appear to respect the fact that they suck the very life out of me. The other day Emilie asked by text if I was “free to talk.” I texted back “yes,” checked to see that my ringer was on and went about my morning, listening out for her call. When I answered, the first thing she said was, “Thank You for taking my call!” It sounded like what the desperate callers say to Dr. Laura when they call in to her radio show… I responded, “Happy to take your call – What’s on your mind?”
As I listened, advised and supported her in equal measure, I found myself longing for the days when my children’s problems were correlative to their size and age. When the kids were little and got upset or worked-up over something, all I had to do was hug them, dry their tears, distract them with an ice cream cone or a push on the swing…it was sufficient to solve their pint-sized sorrows.
I know the Seasoned Mamas are forever preaching to the younger Mamas, but here goes:
Cherish the days when a “Happy Meal” actually equals “Happy.” The older they get, the harder it is to even temporarily buy their happiness…
…Which, by the time you’re 50 and they are 20, is all you’ll really want – for the peace that could be had in it.