“I Will Survive” (Who Needs To Travel Abroad When You Can Hang Back And Babysit?)
There once was a girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
And when she was good, she was very, very good…
But when she was bad, she was horrid…
That might be the only poetry I can actually quote by heart. I remember it from a book of well-worn short stories my mother owned called, “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories.” I believe these books were published in the early 1930s. This poem was at the beginning of a story called, “The Two Carolines.” It was a story about a little girl that was sweet as pie most of the time, but could turn into a little terror on occasion.
My mom delighted when my sister and I pored over these antiquated children’s instructional volumes in the hopes that we were soaking up all the positive behavioral lessons replete within their covers. But, I honestly believe the volumes might’ve informed my parenting style far more than my actual childhood behavior.
The story of “The Two Carolines” debunked, at least for me, any notion that there was such a thing as a “difficult child” or an “easy child.” I believe this story convinced me, no matter how good one’s children are, they’re ALL difficult.
To parent (or grandparent) effectively, one need merely employ some basic survival skills.
I’m in Texas babysitting my 3 year old granddaughter while her parents are flouncing about Europe. A concerned friend texted this morning to inquire how bedtime went last night. I responded with my typical candor.
“There were some tears, but I did manage to pull it together eventually.”
The problem is that I’m not really a, “Night Person!” I start to wind down around 6 or 7 pm, right around the hour this little gal seems to be revving up. So, yeah, I guess you could say we tussled over a few details. I postmated Chic Fil A, fetched Soy Milk and streamed Netflix Kids for her all afternoon and well into the evening. So, by 8 pm, I was depleted. Out of money, calories, apps and any shred of good humor. When I agreed to read some bedtime books, I was thinking 2, maybe 3 at the most. When she insisted on 5, I said, “No!” for the first time since I crossed the Red River…
All Hell broke loose.
As we entered a heated discussion highlighting our opposing viewpoints, I couldn’t help but notice it was MY voice that started to crack and MY eyes that brimmed with tears… I can’t believe at one point in my life I fancied I’d make a good attorney? I can’t even “lord over” a toddler with conviction, resolve and authority.
Her parents would not be pleased to hear that I’m this fragile at the helm. But, then again, they probably know. After all, they’ve been checking in regularly and I’m pretty sure there’s a hidden camera in this house connected to an app on their phones. But, I’d have to care to look.
Yesterday morning her mother texted to ask how “getting her off to school” went. It was 9 am!
I texted back, “I thought you said I didn’t have to rush her off to school in the mornings if we wanted to just relax?”
“That’s fine!” she reassured me. “Take your time!”
Truth is – I’m not really a “Morning Person!” either. Moving Heaven-and-Earth at the crack of dawn to coax a reluctant 3 year old off to Montessori Pre-school is just not my thing. They’re not going over vital information she needs to know for her ACT. With that said, my daughter did remind me the school doesn’t accept drop-offs after noon.
We skidded into the parking lot on two wheels at 11:59.
What I HAVE mostly been doing a lot of this week is focusing on the things I LIKE to do with kids. We’ve been singing and dancing and playing. We’ve also enjoyed traveling vicariously through her parents on Instagram. Well, at least that WAS enjoyable until she decided that MY IPAD was OUR IPAD and just lost it with me for, “not sharing!”
“You aspost to share with people you things Laylay fo nice!”
That’s tough to argue with. Especially when you consider the language barrier.
The language barrier presents an interesting conundrum. Before this week I would’ve bragged to anyone that I, “speak fluent 3 year old!” I am after all a veteran mother of 5. But, what I’m just now remembering is that all 3 year olds speak the same language, but with different regional/familial DIALECTS.
So…it is the same language, but it’s actually not. To remedy confusion on my part, she speaks LOUDER and SLOWER, the way my dad spoke to people in foreign countries. Now I know how all those cab drivers and waiters felt. It’s tremendously condescending. Just because I don’t speak your mother-tongue doesn’t mean I’m “stupid” or “slow!” Geez.
But, she said something to me this morning I understood clear as day…so I’m not sure why I asked for clarification. We were taking a bath together and she asked,
“Can I pee in here?”
Although I was touched by her well-bred manners and uncustomary thoughtfulness in asking first, that’s the 2nd time I’ve been forced to use that word in 48 hours. It doesn’t go over well. I get it, it’s just not Grandmotherly, but in this case I managed to stand firm.
Well…psuedo-firm. I bribed her to get out of the tub.
“Let’s go to Starbucks and get you a cake pop on your way to school!”
Wow, does that ever work! She popped right out of that tub. I have no problem bribing children to achieve my desired outcome. Besides, I wanted a latte and desperately wanted to drop her off at school for a few hours of respite.
And, what’s so wrong with that? Adults respond favorably to bribery too. I bribe myself to do almost EVERYTHING I do these days. I don’t get out of bed without the promise of coffee. I bribe myself with dessert to get motivated to work out. And…If I have to babysit my grandchildren, I promise myself a nice glass (or bottle) of Cabernet. I see nothing wrong with this method of living. My life is a non-stop bribefest of personal accomplishments.
So that’s how it’s gonna be for the next 5 days. We will have all of our collective vices (Postmates, Netflix, Disney Channel, Montessori, Starbucks, Cabernet, Soy Milk, Chic Fil A and our co-owned IPad) on constant rotation. As well as the newly downloaded Babbel App – “Speak Toddlerese In 3 Short Weeks!”
It’s called Survival.
Because when we are good, we are very, very good, but when we are bad…well…we are horrid.
“Keeping The Faith” (There Are Certainly Things You Can Lose, But Also Things No One Can Ever Take Away…)
(Posing at photo shoot with our Marketing Director – Vilona Michael)
To this day I’m not sure who wanted it more, you or me. But I’d be willing to bet $5,000 and a Rolex watch it was me. All I know is that I wanted it bad. Really, really bad.
The Legend Award.
It was the highest award your company gave out. They awarded it every year at the annual Management Conference to the highest achiever in several categories and you were up for it in 1989. We were only 26. If you won, you’d be the youngest recipient in the history of the company. The prize was $5000 and an engraved Rolex watch. The money would be life-changing for us, for sure, but it was the glory I was after. I desperately sought that recognition of your hard work, talent and sacrifice.
And, trust me, I know how that sounds…I was the stereotypical 1980s wife…living vicariously through her husband’s success. But alas, that’s another article for another day.
I remember how I couldn’t even enjoy the day of the banquet. I was beyond nervous. Someone had chartered a boat. Everyone was waterskiing – one of my favorite activities. Never matter, I couldn’t ski anyway, as I was large with child. It was August and our second daughter was due in September. The day felt extraordinarily long and insufferable.
Eventually, the moment arrived. The CEO gave a speech about the winner, but didn’t say your name until the end. It was suspenseful to say the least. And I would go on to recite his words hundreds of times in the years that followed…Mostly to an enraptured audience of 5. Our children. It was the mom version of a Ted-talk.
“This man isn’t glitzy. He doesn’t blind you with his flash and dash. He’s all substance and honor, a man of his word…”
The minute I heard this description, I knew you’d won. Who else could they be describing? It had to be you!
Later that evening, back in our hotel room, as you stashed the cash in the room’s safe and slid that amazing piece of hardware on your wrist, I recall you weren’t happy. Not at all. Which was weird. I’d never seen you unhappy around so much money. But to be fair, I’d never seen you around so much money. When I inquired after your sullen mood, that in no way matched my euphoria, you indicated panic. You told me there was pressure on you now. Everyone would be expecting so much from a “Legend!”
I was shocked by this revelation. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. You were worried about delivering? You always delivered! That’s why you received this award in the first place! I remember trying to reason you out of your surliness, after all you were “harshing my vibe.” I gave you one of my renowned pep talks, but you couldn’t shake it off that easily.
There was time for all of this later I reasoned. All anyone expected right now was for you to go downstairs to the lavish hotel bar and celebrate by letting them buy you a drink or three.
That seemed to do the trick, but you were a complicated man, that’s for sure.
Nonetheless, you managed to work through your angst and went on to build a successful career off of that award and your status as a legend. Your reputation preceded you everywhere we went until the day you died. And, honestly, it still does. Although, I suppose these days it’s called a legacy.
Yesterday, the kids and I participated in a photoshoot at a restaurant your company opened and named after you. It was fun and obviously an honor. The email said there would be emphasis on our hands and wrists, as we would be photographed holding cocktails – so the guys should wear watches and the ladies bracelets and rings. At the last minute, I grabbed your Rolex for Tommy, as today’s younger generation typically uses their cell phones as their preferred timepiece.
I choked up as I fastened it on his wrist. We both laughed a little at how big you must’ve been, because the watch was huge on him and he’s not a small guy in his own right.
About halfway through the shoot, Tommy took the watch off and gave it to me because it kept sliding off his wrist. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to put it, so I set it on the seat beside me and then accidentally left it at the restaurant.
Yes, what I’m trying to say is that I lost your stinkin’ Legend Rolex watch.
This isn’t the first time it’s been lost. But I’m very worried it might be the last time. It went missing once in the 90s and we kept interrogating 3 year old James, “Do you have Daddy’s watch?” I’m not sure why we were so convinced he had it, but both of the little boys were enamored with your watch. I think they associated it with you because you wore it every day. Eventually James got all excited and ran across the room and pulled it out of the bottom of the toy box, holding it high up in the air, shouting enthusiastically,
“Yeah it is!”
Yeah…there it was! Somewhere we never thought to look. Yeah…it sure was.
I was so relieved we found the watch that day. But since I left it in a public place this time, I fear it may be gone forever. I’m not sure which son I would’ve given it to anyway. Still…I’m so very heartbroken over losing it. One more little piece of you gone forever. I have to keep reminding myself that watch wasn’t actually you. It was really just a thing. I still have everything you left on this earth that actually matters.
One of your favorite things to say was, “Protect The Brand!” You said it constantly and I’m not really sure we all really knew what you meant back then, but I do believe we are starting to get it nowadays.
Your watch might be gone forever, but I do believe “The Brand” and your legacy are secure. It’s times like this I’m reminded to be grateful for the parts of you no one can ever take from us.
“Thinking Out Loud” (Sometimes ‘No Words’ Are The Right Words…)
I’ve been told I overthink things.
And, that’s probably not too far off the mark. I do tend to over-analyze some things. Okay, EVERYTHING. But, I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided it’s probably a sign of intelligence. I’ve got a lot riding on that conclusion.
This morning was the annual “Oklahoma City Marathon – A Run To Remember” and it proved extremely exhausting for me. And probably for the runners too.
I had a coveted front row seat at mile 18 – our driveway. I did run the half marathon years ago and, while it’s all a blur, I do recall being quite touched by all the people out on their lawns cheering on the runners, so I decided that would be my personal contribution to this year’s event.
I set up my lawn chair, made myself a latte, grabbed a fur throw in case it was chilly and headed outside. That’s when things got challenging.
Nobody likes a “Woo-hoo Girl” or so I’ve been told by my kids, (they keep me current on the ever-changing slew of cultural do’s and don’ts) so as the first runner sprinted past, I wrestled internally with what to shout at him. I admit I was stymied and caught a little off guard. I couldn’t find the right words, so I just clapped. Vigorously.
By the time the next runner approached, I had found my Inner Outside Voice:
“Keep it Up!”
“You’ve Got This!”
If a lady runner approached, I customized my encouragement with a smidgen of feminism:
“Get it Girl!”
At one point, a couple ran by and I hollered, “You’re killin’ it Girl!” and then worried for a few minutes that her guy might’ve felt like I wasn’t there for him. I mean, he too was “killin’ it,” I was just biased because she was a woman and probably had to make breakfast for their entire family before they left the house that morning. Just sayin…But, I had to let it go, as another group was approaching and I was convinced they were in desperate need of my particular brand of positivity.
I considered shouting, “You’re almost there!” but thought better of it, as they still had 8.2 miles left. That’s more than I run these days and way more than the average human. So, no.
I also toyed with, “Think about everything you’ll get to eat today after the race!” But even I didn’t need my kids to tell me that sounded more than a little toxic. So, I let that one go as well.
As mentioned, I haven’t always sat in a lawn chair yelling at strangers on my street.
I started running with my dad back in 1981 when his cardiologist told him he needed exercise. He had suffered his first heart attack at age 33, right after he returned from Viet Nam. I was petrified to lose him, so I became his running partner. I would’ve done anything to keep him healthy and alive. We ran 1.8 miles in a circle around our subdivision every morning before I went to school. Believe it or not, that seemed like a marathon to me back then.
My dad had another heart attack – the one that took him from us – 20 years later, in 2001. By then, I was married and had 5 children. It was horrific to lose my father, but it was somewhat bearable by then because I was so distracted by the large and chaotic life I had built for myself. Still, the memory of all those morning runs was a comfort.
And I kept on running.
I ran that half-marathon years ago in honor of my first running partner, who taught me resiliency in the face of all of life’s challenges. Dad fully embraced that 1970s poster dictum, “KEEP ON TRUCKIN BABY!” I’m sure on some level, my dad knew back then what I did not know. Tests were coming my way. In droves. And I was going to have to plod on.
So there I was, cradling my latte, witnessing this incredible feat of human endurance, remembering my Dad and our runs and how it all shaped me, while searching for the words to inspire people to plod on.
…But, the last thing I wanted to do was aggravate the marathoners on mile 18. I must confess, I’m always one click away from perturbed when I run even a mile or 2. (I never have quite achieved that ever-elusive “runners high.”)
What’s more, I kept thinking about how irritating I find it when people exhort, advise and beseech you to do something they’ve actually never done. I was reminded how people would encourage me to “keep going” after Jimmy died. Their well-intentioned words were somewhat akin to “Looking good!” “You got this!” “Go Girl – you’re killin’ it!”
True – I was hostile, depleted and exhausted, so I often felt like responding to the cheerleaders on the sidelines, “You don’t know….you’ve never been through this!” Or even, “Why don’t you just shut up!”
So, in the end…I decided not to actually SAY anything to the runners. I decided to merely clap. I clapped until my palms were stinging. But, every now and then, I did sprinkle in a “Woo!” followed by the ocasional “Hoo!”
Which I hope succinctly and adequately conveyed this message:
“You’re doing something I’ve never done! Something I can’t even imagine doing and dread the very thought of and I admire the hell out of you! Period!”
I channeled my inner “Woo-Hoo Girl,” deciding she was less condescending than the self-proclaimed Armchair Therapist and her equally boorish outdoor cousin, the Lawn Chair Therapist.
But, who knows? I’m probably overthinking it.
“Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies” (Sometimes Your Child’s Pants Are on Fire And it’s Fine by You…)
3 year old Anna told so many lies this weekend, we’re starting to become concerned she’s on her way to the Governor’s Mansion or the White House. She, however, insists she’s headed to a convent, as she claims she plans to be a nun. I’m pretty sure that’s yet another narrative she’s weaving for our entertainment. I do think she could be a writer, though. Writers are the biggest liars out there, second only to politicians, of course.
It started almost immediately, when we picked her up for a sleepover. The overnight stay was somewhat necessary because she wasn’t “getting along” with her nanny. It seems, as the story goes, there was an altercation between her and the nanny. When her mother tried to discuss the episode with her, Anna looked her mother straight in the eye and asked,
“Why would she even say that about me?”
Her mother gently responded,
“Well why do you think she said that about you?
To which Anna unabashedly proclaimed,
“I have absolutely no idea!”
Exasperated, my daughter implored me to have the child over on Saturday night for a sleepover, so she and Daddy could have a much needed evening out, leaving the beleaguered nanny with two easy-going sweet little boys. No problem, said I. And the entire world could relax knowing this little hellion was in the capable hands of Grandma Laylay, who (by the way) doesn’t lie like that stinkin traitor/nanny. S’all good.
We picked her up for the overnight. She met us at the door with a princess suitcase large enough for a month in Europe. We hugged the nanny goodbye, who MIGHT have rolled her eyes over the child’s head. I rolled my eyes right back in mutual solidarity and hugged her and I MIGHT have whispered, “I love you” to a woman I barely know. Why, you ask? Because I don’t want her to quit. Why, you ask? Because I’m first in line to be this woman’s replacement! It’s no coincidence that Granny rhymes with Nanny.
Our first stop was our favorite restaurant. As we pulled in the parking lot I asked if she’d like a sprite to go with her Girl Cheese Sandwich. In an annoyed voice, she retorted,
“I don’t like Sprite!”
In an equally sarcastic voice most grandmothers don’t employ when speaking to their grandchildren I retorted right back, “ You don’t like liquified sugar poured over ice with tiny bubbles?”
I spotted that immediately for the lie that it clearly was. Grandma Laylay can play this game with the best of them.
Moments later when I ordered myself a glass of wine, I looked over at the tot and asked in absolute seriousness,
“Would you prefer something from the bar instead?
(Side note: Try this next time you have the misfortune of taking a small child to dinner. The look on the waitress’s face was everything. She was probably trying to work out how to card a 3 year old. ‘Twas Priceless!)
Now, this child was a COVID baby. She never saw the light of day, with the exception of her own backyard for 2/3 of her tiny little life. Her first restaurant experience was very recent. And I’ll wager her lame parents have never offered her anything from the bar. We went over all of her choices. There was one. We settled on it. The classic Shirley Temple. Obviously she does like Sprite. Presentation is everything. No judgement here…I’m not interested in anything that’s not properly garnished…houses, outfits, even grandchildren.
On the ride home, she happily chirped about how she “couldn’t wait to get to our house to sleep in her Elsa bed!” More eye rolling. This time it was me and Paul-Paul. Nonetheless, he optimistically set up the little cot we optimistically ordered on Amazon. Tiny little liar climbed in that bed and stayed there for less than 2 minutes before she wedged herself in between us.
When she arrived home the next morning, her mother asked her if she had a lovely time. She admitted that she did, but she still had a complaint (oh really? Can’t wait to hear!)
“Dey didn’t talk to me…Dey only talked to deyselves”
Hmmmm…I barely acknowledge Paul’s existence when Anna’s over. She’s just simply that demanding. She and I got in the hot tub in the morning and discussed her future career in the convent ad nauseam. And she absolutely dominated the dinner table conversation the night before, so I’m not quite sure where she’s getting this, but this kid is certainly “living her truth!” Perhaps it was when Paul opened the back door and asked if I needed a refill on my coffee. I will admit he can be rude like that sometimes.
But the most poignant lie she told this weekend was a bit of a whopper…
When she stays over – a few minutes before her parents are due to pick her up, I dress her and scramble around hastily to pack her things. Then, as is our custom, while we wait, we walk around and look at framed pictures…
…Pictures of all the people who passed before she was born. People who would have loved the absolute heck out of this scrappy little thing. How much she’s like her mother, her aunts, me and my mother. What a kick they would get out of her sassy little self. Lies and all. I carry her around the house on my hip and I show her.
We paused at a picture of Jimmy. Papa Jim. I said,
“That’s your Papa Jim. It broke my heart when he died.”
And y’all…in the sweetest little voice you’ve ever heard (NOT the “I DONT LIKE LIQUIFIED SUGAR” voice, but a different one.) A voice so pure said,
“Awwwwwwww Grandma Laylay, it broke my heart so much when he died too! It just broke my heart!”
So, yeah, this child can lie to me, she can even lie ABOUT me. I’ll take it. ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. And for all the rest of my days.
Honestly, I started having second thoughts about the position of solidarity I took with that lyin’ nanny.
“And I Say to Myself, What a Wonderful World” (5 years of Grief Management in Review)
We have a little game we play repetitively with the toddlers in our family. At first, it comes across like a “Q&A Intelligence Test,” but it’s actually a bemused response to something the child originally said and we’ve become quite adept at getting them to repeat it, for our continued entertainment.
An example is an ongoing exchange with my almost 3 yo granddaughter. It goes like this:
Me- “Who runs the show?”
Her- “Grandma Lay-lay runs the show!”
This silly patter reminds me of a moment one of my Besties recounted about an exchange she had with her 5 yo daughter years ago. In a rare moment of rebellion, my friend’s daughter retorted, “You’re not the Boss of the world, you know!” Trying to suppress her astonishment, my friend queried,
“Well, who IS the Boss of The World?”
And her daughter responded,
Well, there you have it! I’m in charge. Out of the mouths of babes, etc etc. There was a general consensus among the neighborhood children. I guess they watched me lording over the cul-de-sac just long enough to render this assessment. I am unequivocally “Boss of the World!”
Only, I’m not…
What I am…or at least what I have been, is a Grief Mitigator. And all that really means is that I have experienced traumatic events in my life, over which I had zero agency, and am still here to talk about them. Grief Mitigation has similarities to what AA touts about Alcoholism – “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” It could also be compared to being in remission from an incurable disease. You still have the condition, you will always have the condition, you’re never entirely cured…you’ve just employed some extremely powerful work-arounds.
I read an article about surviving trauma today. It was great. Really insightful. The author talked about how the Survivor’s life is divided between a strong line of demarcation. The “before” and the “after.” Oh, how I get that. And, how very gratifying to be understood.
It seems like everyone wants Grievers to eventually become “cured” or “fixed.” I feel this a little bit when people tell me over and over how “strong” I am! I’m never really sure what they’re basing that on. After I lost my husband, I really only had two viable options. To live or die. I had to choose the former because I was a Mother. (Failure is never an option for mothers.) So, I chose to live… minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day…until eventually one day, recently, I noticed …5 years had gone by.
Five years that feels like 5 days, but also 50 years.
The bottom line is that there’s not really a cure. People so desperately want to believe there is. I think this is because, as people bear witness to YOUR grief and efforts at recovery, they need to bolster the belief that THEY too could survive their own worst fears. Watching you navigate yours with a modicum of resilience, gives them hope for themselves and quells their fears to some degree.
Not long after Jimmy died, people started enthusiastically reminding me about all the good things I still had in my life. They offered me a smorgasbord of my own blessings as consolation prizes. Like an obnoxious 1970’s game show host, they would suggest, “You didn’t win the brand new car or trip around the world, but you are going to take home this Amana Radar-Range!”
For a long time, I bristled when strangers and friends threw my very own grandbabies at me, as though they could replace my Love. This made me crazy. So crazy, in fact, that I even went so far as to admonish several cheerleading friends to, “Call me when YOUR husband dies!” I know, I know…that was shameful, but it felt like everyone was secretly relieved I “took a bullet” for the team. I’d won that awful lottery, so no one else had to play.
But, the thing is, they also weren’t wrong…about my blessings. I just couldn’t receive the message yet, and certainly not from anyone who hadn’t experienced what I considered to be my advanced level of trauma…my National Merit Trauma.
But survivors do manage to find the palliative care that mitigates their suffering. They just do it on their own timetable. And the lived experience of other survivors honestly CAN help. I recall how I immersed myself in memoirs of Holocaust survivors, drawing strength from their experiences. If they can do it, I can do it, I reasoned.
So, it’s been 5 years since the ringing of a doorbell. The quiet chime that drew a bold line right down the center of my existence. The Before and The After. But, on this side of the line I’ve welcomed 4 new grandchildren into my heart, found an absolutely amazing new Love, bought a new home, made new friends and reveled in lots of new experiences. I willfully and intentionally embrace joy, whilst I carry my pain, somewhat contained, in a Fanny pack around my waist. It’s always there, but it burdens and encumbers me less these days.
I’m sure by now my friends’ kids (all fully-grown adults) have come to realize I don’t actually rule the world. If I did, things would’ve proceeded quite differently. And yet, life is indeed both wondrous and wonderful.
One of the coolest things is that there’s a whole new crop of little ones who think I run the show. And, I’ll take it.
“Cheers to Laylay! Boss of the world!”
“Sorry Seems to be The Hardest Word” (How to Get an Apology in 30 years or less…)
I spent the better part of my career in the Domestic C-Suite, gamely attempting to coerce apologies out of recalcitrants. It all started with my husband and then eventually trickled downward into years of frustration with our children.
He and I used to argue about apologies.
We actually had arguments about apologies, that later necessitated apologies. Comical, but true. He once accused me of “never apologizing!” which left me quite frustrated, as I was utterly convinced that I was Constantly Apologizing and it was him who “never apologized!”
Once, when he conceded that I was indeed the “Better Apologizer,” he added that it was owed entirely to the fact that I was, “more practiced at it, due to constantly screwing up,” maintaining that since he was “rarely wrong,” he didn’t have quite as much experience at verbalizing remorse.
I mean, he wasn’t wrong. (Per the usual.)
These days our family is raising a new generation and fostering reconciliation is an ongoing effort, so the grandchildren are learning The Fine Art of The Apology. I’m very hopeful this next generation will be better at it than us, or even their parents…
…but so far it’s not looking that way.
Earlier this week, there was some sort of kerfuffle between my 5 year old grandson and his 3 year old sister. The incident resulted in a need for Her to apologize to Him. (Although he is 2 years her senior, they are quite evenly matched in any given verbal debate.)
When she adamantly refused, she was sent to her room to ponder her transgressions, up to and including her refusal to say, “I’m sorry” to her brother. She was permitted to come out when she was, “ready to apologize.” She wasn’t in there mulling things over for very long. She popped back out exuberantly only minutes later.
“Hi, Sweetheart, are you ready to apologize?” her mother asked patiently.
At this point, the child places her hands on her throat in a perfect mimic of a laryngitis sufferer and emphatically and oh-so-dramatically mouthed these words,
“I can’t – I’ve lost my voice!”
It’s a good thing her mother can read lips, because not one audible syllable emanated from this child, not even a hoarsy whisper. Just the pantomiming of her despair that her physical state at the moment precluded her from issuing any apologies.
This child has definitely elevated the art form, just not in the way I was hoping. No DNA test on Earth could ever convince me this child wasn’t my family’s genetic spawn.
This episode reminded me of many hopeless days as a mother trying to elicit apologies out of my own children. There was one time in a school parking lot when one of my daughters refused to apologize to another child for so long the other mother started glancing at her watch. I took that as my cue to set the family free. It was obvious how dug-in my kid was and I didn’t think it was fair to hold another family hostage to her protracted and indomitable will. We’d been there so long that it was starting to get dark outside. I assured the other mother somewhat sheepishly, the apology would be coming in due course.
I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I know that I constantly preached to my children the value, the necessity and the beauty of a decent apology. I can remember one of my mantras, “In your entire life, you’ll probably only need one hand to count the number of times you’ll get a sincere apology from anyone you’re not married to or related to.” I still adhere to this belief. (And… I certainly don’t mean to imply that it’s a cinch to weasel one out of someone you’re married to or related to.)
I’m considering an oft-quoted line from the 1970s movie, “Love Story,” where the heroine says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry!” I was young and immature when I saw the movie, so I never quite connected with the meaning of that line. I’m pretty sure I vehemently disagreed. But lately I’ve been coming around to the concept. That, or I’m just exhausted.
I was thinking the other day about my early years of marriage, when I would get so upset in an argument that I’d flounce off to sleep on the couch. Eventually, my husband would come out and gently nudge me over so he could curl up beside me. That was his apology. I nestled in, knowing his message was, “I’m a jerk sometimes, but I can’t live without you!”
I always knew…without him actually having to speak. Those are tender memories now. Bittersweet and long gone, they occasionally nip at my heart and mind when I recall us.
Perhaps that’s what the movie line meant? Maybe the word “say” is supposed to be emphasized? “Love means never having to SAY you’re sorry!” It’s not that we’re not sorry, it’s just that sometimes we’d prefer to convey our contrition in less traditional, more creative ways.
And now, our family tree is literally showering the earth with all these ripe little crab-apples. The kind that don’t fall too far from the tree. Their parents are astonished, concerned, appalled…but it merely tickles me these days. Because I know they’ll be okay.
Just like we always were.
It’s a beautiful thing when someone you love, “loses their voice” and you can hear them anyway. Because, sometimes “Love means never having to actually SAY you’re sorry…”
Pass the throat lozenges, please.
“If it Makes You Happy, Then Why The Hell Are You So Sad?” (Reasoning with Children Paves The Path to Sainthood…)
I know now why they call today “All Saints Day.” I can’t speak for everyone, but after surviving Halloween with small children I certainly feel like we should ALL be canonized. I’m detoxing today from yesterday’s cocktail of sugar, martyrdom, joy and despair.
We had it all in equal measure.
My fairly simple assignment was to pick up my 3-year-old granddaughter from daycare, take her home and begin the process of converting her into a princess, (Fairy Grandmother style) while her mother multi-tasked at feeding the baby and getting dinner started. Since this child literally stays in “Princess Mode” 24/7, how difficult could my role actually be?
Harder than you might imagine.
The challenge commenced as she clambered into her car seat, asking,
“Do you have my dress?”
I quickly explained that we were headed straight to her house, where her dress was ready and waiting. She immediately registered annoyance at my obvious ineptitude. I guess she wanted to change in the parking lot? I had a 20+ year flash-forward of her as a Bridezilla one day. Hopefully I’m not her Maid of Honor.
As we drove home she explained to me that she wanted her hair to look exactly, “like Belle’s when she comes down the stairs!” She was astonishingly specific for a 37 month old human. Now, for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of watching “Beauty and The Beast” 4600 times like I have, Belle sports several different hairstyles throughout the show and this child has selected the most regally complicated one.
But, of course.
And, trust me, it wasn’t enough that she was going as Belle from “Beauty and The Beast,” she additionally requested a live prop…her infant brother was being coerced into an itchy, furry Beast costume to complete her ensemble to perfection. True…it was indeed cuteness overload…for at least 5 minutes…all up until he started screaming in protest when he realized he had been commissioned as a mere theatrical prop – a backdrop to his sister’s drama.
Get used to it Lil dude.
As soon as my daughter manipulated 20 or so spiral curls in Her Majesty’s hair, my granddaughter looked over at me, sitting on the couch with my wine soothing myself and “the beast” and requested her “make-ups!”
That’s when things spiraled faster than her locks…
It seems I had left her “Tiny Tot Glamour Kit” at my house! But, no worries, she managed to bounce back in record time – a little less than 45 minutes. Suffice it to say, it was 45 minutes of accusations, crocodile tears and lip trembling before we managed to convince the child that her mother actually owned some quality make up she could lend her.
I’m not usually one to brag, but it only took 6 adults about an hour to get 3 small children out the door to trick-or-treat. (Disclaimer: some of us were drinking.)
Apparently things weren’t any less dramatic south of here in Dallas…
According to my youngest daughter, my 2-year-old granddaughter approached trick-or-treating like a drunk sorority sister. She vacillated between the irrational exuberance of a “WOO-HOO Girl” and the despondence of the Over-Served. When the sober, sensible people around her gently suggested perhaps it was time to, “call it a night,” she violently shrugged them off, loudly protesting that she was “still having fun,” as she found random things to weep about in between houses. I wasn’t there, but it sure sounds like a typical Bar Crawl on Any Campus USA.
I did try to FaceTime them after they got her home, but was told by her emotionally exhausted and depleted parents that she couldn’t come to the phone, as she was indisposed – crying herself to sleep. And, for what it was worth, they informed me, they were counting down the hours until the clock strikes midnight, when they hoped their little Cinderella would turn back into a humble scullery maid.
So naieve. That’s the stuff of fairy tales! I’ve been at this long enough to know that is NEVER going to happen. As they say, the genie never goes back in the bottle and once a princess always a princess…
…They’d be better off pouring themselves another glass of wine and counting on midnight to bring about All Saints Day, resting in the assurance that All Parents are All Saints.
And I’m starting to think All Grandparents are too.
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” (Unless It’s Your Grandkids and They Do Them For Free!)
I see a future for my grandchildren working at the Tyson Chicken plant. Plucking chickens by hand. They still need people to do that, right? I think they’ll have bright and rosy futures. At the very least, they’ll lead happy and fulfilled lives.
Why do I think this?
Because I arrived home from a very relaxing weekend to find out the destructive little hoodlums plucked my prized yucca plant bare-naked. All the beautiful white blossoms are gone. And, according to their mother, they were fast and efficient, performing this task at lightening speed. Apparently, before she had a chance to intervene.
THIS is why we can’t have nice things.
But, the optimist in me wants to salvage the situation. Why not parlay their instincts into nice careers?
Quite simply, kids are at their happiest when they’re destroying stuff. But, there are ways to defend oneself against this assault. In the 1970s, when my mother was raising me and my siblings, the interior design palette of choice was called, “Earth Tones.” This worked swimmingly for Doris, as we tracked in quite a bit of “earth” that blended well with the Burnt Oranges, Harvest Golds and Avocado Greens she and her designer splashed around our house.
When I was bringing up my brood, that similar interior design style was re-branded, “Old World.” Luckily for me, this trend embraced an aged patina and dark colors. The more bruised and battered an item was, the more chic it was. Again, timing is everything. My generation of mothers got lucky.
Nonetheless, after my 5 children were grown and flown, home decor styles started changing and I was more than ready to dress up my domicile in the new trend. Out went the dark colors, the dinks and the dings. Gone went the distressed wood and the barren industrial concrete floors. The design world ushered in a new look one might even call, “New World.” This vibe is all about white or cream with “pops of color.” After years of living in a home that resembled a medieval dungeon, it’s a breath of fresh air. And, what’s more…white goes with everything!
This became apparent when I recently redecorated. I started with my “anchor piece.” A rather large sectional in a luscious creamy boucle that cost more than my first car. Not to say the couch was insanely expensive, it’s really more of a commentary on how cheap my first car was. But still…I do love the couch. I get visibly nervous when the grandchildren get within a foot or two of it, prompting one of my daughters to snap,
“Why in the world did you buy a white couch anyway?”
“Because I wanted one! And I deserve one!” It was the only response I could think of on short notice. I know…not my most clever comeback.
So, when I walked out onto my patio Monday morning, mug of coffee in hand, ready to greet the new day and saw the fate of my precious yucca plant…well…I was just apoplectic.
The thing had pointy sharp spikes on it. Literally like swords. How was that not a natural deterrent to it’s destruction?
At first I thought we must’ve had a heck of a windstorm. But then I opened the lid to the spa where the children frolicked and it looked like an overly-enthusiastic flower girl had scattered petals about, making ready for a hot tub wedding ceremony. I immediately knew who the culprits were.
It’s one thing for them to tear up the house, but now even my backyard sanctuary space isn’t safe from the little darlings. I thought about complaining, but was afraid all three of my daughters would ask me why I “even have flowers” and I would come up with some equally lame response such as the one I used to defend my couch.
The truth is, I don’t have a leg to stand on. There are friends and family members dotted across this great land of ours that still break out in hives just thinking about me dropping by with my 5 children for a visit. And full blown PTSD at the thought we might extend our visit to a weekend stay. The things my kids did to people’s homes…looking back…cringe.
So, I stuffed down my annoyance and whispered a remorseful apology heavenwards to my mother instead. Back in the day, I would get as prickly as my yucca plant if she dared comment on how my children destroyed her home when we came over. I once had the audacity to suggest she might love her “things” more than my little monsters, so righteous was my indignation!
So I suppose I’ll just buy some hive cream and some therapy because I totally have this coming. But..still..who can blame me for wincing a bit when those little Pluckers come a-calling.
“It’s A Family Affair” (My Mini Mea Culpa)
Have you ever felt like you manifested something?
I don’t mean like a random wish that came true. I mean like seriously manifested something. Or perhaps someone? Like an actual person?
I’m starting to feel like I’m responsible for the personality of my granddaughter. And quite possibly a few more granddaughters following closely behind the first one…
Let me explain.
Almost everyone knows I’m a mother of 5. Three daughters, followed by two sons. I’ve made no secret through the years that my sons were easier to raise than my girls. Most people say that boys are harder when they’re younger, as they’re destructive and don’t always follow basic commands. Most will also agree that girls are challenging when they’re older because they’re lippy and dramatic. I certainly found that to be the case. Girls ARE harder, until they become mothers themselves.
With that said, I once told a good friend,
“I hope my children’s children are the brattiest brats to ever crawl across the face of the Earth!”
In my defense, I was super exasperated with all my daughters at the exact same time. It was a bad day, during a difficult time. I’m usually not 3 for 3, but that particular day I definitely was. Believe me, my friend never lets me forget I said that. She says she and her own mother still laugh about it from time to time.
Okay, whatever, judge me if you must, but I know EVERY mother reading this has AT LEAST ONCE uttered what I affectionately refer to as, “The Grandma Curse” If you haven’t, you’re either a way better human or you have way less children. “The Grandma Curse” is where you ever-so-briefly hope your children get to feel a little payback one day for what they’ve heaped so heartily upon your parental plate. I promise you, your own parents wished it upon you. I’ll wager it’s been going on for generations. I’m looking up there at you Great-Grandma!
This brings me to the past weekend with my threenaged granddaughter…
It was her brother’s birthday, so I thought she might feel special (and get out of everyone’s hair) if she spent the night at LayLay’s. She was tickled. On the car ride over, she told her mother,
“We’re almost at LayLay’s house! She’s going to be sooooo excited to see me!” (Self-esteem ✅)
Now, this child is my Mini-Me when it comes to guilty pleasures. She loves:
-Staying up late watching TV
She’s also unusually obsessed with:
This is evidenced by a comment she made to her mother the other day when she inquired why her mother didn’t wear “make-ups” every day. When my daughter, an attorney and busy mother of 3 replied, “Time Constraints!” she unsympathetically admonished, “When I’m a Mommy, I’m gonna wear make-ups every day!”
Now, before those of you well-coiffed, mani/pedi’d readers become overly-enamored with this glamour-shaming tot, let me add one more more trait to the list:
After I went out of my way for 18 hours to host a sleepover any 3 year old girl would dream of, she had the audacity to go home and tattle-tale! On me!
My daughter called within an hour or so after her arrival home to tell me the child had the audacity to claim she was “starving” (my family never employs the word “hungry,” as we are always “starving,” unless, of course, we are “famished!”). She maintained that Laylay never fed her(???)
Liar, liar, pants on fire!
Her brother doesn’t eat pizza because he doesn’t like cheese (so NOT my Mini-Me) In an effort to make the evening special, I ordered an enormous pizza! I even had it delivered to the house and made a big deal out of it. We stalked the delivery person on our security cameras. (Don’t tell me Laylay doesn’t know how to have fun!)
And then we ate:
Rice Krispy treats (at 5:30 Sunday morning when she woke me up)
A fruit pouch (her mom insisted and sometimes I follow basic commands)
Candy Canes (yep, leftover from last Christmas)
I think that’s all, but I wouldn’t swear to it. So, I have no idea what she was telling her mother, but the child is an attention-seeking embellisher of the truth. I’d say I’ve no idea where she gets this from, but storytelling quite simply runs in our family. We don’t call it lying, so much as CPR or a “creative perspective on reality.”
My daughter sheepishly apologized when she told me about the less-than-stellar-3-star sleepover review She was actually afraid I’d be offended. Honestly, I was a teensy-weensy bit offended, but mostly I felt guilty. I felt it was I that owed HER an apology. Not for starving her kid…
…But for manifesting a Mini-Me. You would’ve thought they broke the mold, but apparently we are making sequels.
MINI MEA CULPA!
“You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party!” (When Your Family Won’t Let Your Birthday Go Away…)
I used to love my birthday. It always fell on a lovely day in early April. Arguably one of the most beautiful times of the year. If you happen to live in a state with trees, they are blossoming. Tulips are blooming. Baby birds are chirping.
My mother used to incorporate this Spring/Easter theme into my cakes, cupcakes and birthday parties every year. And the little pastel dresses she dressed me in were to die for.
But these days…I’m not a big fan of my birthday and all that it represents. Screw those baby bunnies and chicks. And I’ve long since retired the vestiges of unflattering pastels clinging to my wardrobe. Even more tragically, that glorious one pound bag of jelly beans I used to gorge on annually have now been linked to my migraines.
So these days I’m more like, ”Let’s don’t and say we did!”
But before we launch into a verse of “The Thrill is Gone,” I have to confess that my birthday is still a REALLY big deal. It’s HUGE here on a local level, unfortunately.
Despite the fact that I successfully googled how to remove my birthday information off of Social Media, in the hopes that no one would remember it, I have not managed to completely eradicate the impact of this date.
Because of the children I made and the children they made.
They all know exactly when my birthday is and they insist on making a thing of it.
In full disclosure, it’s my fault they know. Back in the day, when I ran a crazy, chaotic family with 5 children, I actually WANTED my family to know it was my birthday. I thought maybe, I could squeeze out one day a year that would be a “Day Off,” because, let’s face it, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, even Mother’s Day were all pretty “worky” for me.
This year, the day before my birthday, my “Birthday Eve” if you will, I was dropping off one tiny grandchild at the home of two other small grandchildren. In true grandmotherly fashion, I bribed the one I was dropping off to get into her car seat by giving her a ziplock bag full of jelly beans, which she was still clutching manically when we arrived at the other two children’s home.
Ordinarily this would have set off quite the kerfuffle. But, oddly enough, it did not. The two slightly older cousins eyed her treat longingly, but she quickly settled the matter at the top of her lungs by shouting, “MINE!”
Again, in true grandmotherly fashion, rather than scolding her, I scolded myself for this rookie error, realizing I should’ve brought two more bags! But in a rather astonishing turn of events, the other two children turned as docile as two little lambs and invited her to come survey their plethora of snacks.
It was as though they had stepped out of one of those “DICK AND JANE” storybooks from the 1950s, so full of cherubic, wholesome innocence they were. I glanced around for their dog, SPOT and their mother in an apron and heels. (Their mother was upstairs in black yoga pants grading law exams…)
They opened their refrigerator and proudly showed their cousin a cluster of grapes . Then they opened their freezer and lovingly displayed their stash of popsicles. And if that wasn’t enticing enough, they opened their pantry and showed off shelves brimming full of fruit snacks, veggie straws and kiddie protein bars.
I just stood there basking in grandmotherly affection. It was one of those magically sweet, nostalgic moments between the cousins and I beamed in pride over my firstborn grand-progeny, ages 4 and 2, and the perfect example they were setting for their little cousin. Grandma Laylay really had a handle on her legacy.
A legacy of love.
Nonetheless, in the interest of keeping things lively, I spotted a cake mix and frosting on the shelf, and gently teased…
“It’s someone’s birthday tomorrow! Are y’all baking a cake?”
And that’s when all Hell broke loose.
My 2-year-old granddaughter started thrashing about clamoring for the box, which was on a high shelf, screaming that it was my birthday and they needed to make the cake. Like all 2-year-olds, immediate gratification is her calling card. Most notably when sugar is involved.
My 4-year-old grandson, a textbook firstborn, rule-follower, who was born with an internal clock and calendar, exasperatedly admonished her, “Tomorrow is LayLay’s birthday! Tomorrow! We are making the cake tomorrow!”
The frosting was one of those cans that has the sprinkles displayed across the top of the lid, causing the 2-year-old’s eyes to roll back into her head as she practically convulsed in seizures…
“Sprinkles Grandma Laylay! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES! SPRINKLES!”
At which point her brother raced to explain at the top of his lungs (in an effort to be heard over his sister) that it was a RAINBOW FLAVORED CAKE!!! It’s hard to describe what happened next. Most mothers will understand when I say that the situation both escalated and spiraled simultaneously. At one point both siblings were reduced to tears and pummeling one another for reasons neither was equipped to articulate.
Suffice it to say, there was much trembling, flailing-about and an over-abundance of excitement, I’m pretty sure they were both speaking in tongues at one point.
It sounded like it anyway.
Within seconds, their mother came downstairs and sorted everything out. She yanked the cake mix and frosting away from me and put it on an even higher shelf. One I couldn’t reach. She’s taller than me.
Then she shook her head and rolled her eyes at my uncanny ability to consistently instigate a ruckus in her home, even though I was only in charge for a few minutes. Plucking her tiny niece from my arms, she shooed me out the door and on my way to do whatever it is that mutinous, trouble-making grandmothers do on the Eve of their Birth.
I had something to do all right. I drove off and immediately began planning the menu for next weekend. Easter Weekend. I’m definitely thinking cake, cupcakes and jelly beans. Served alongside a Cabernet that pairs nicely with sugar, migraines and my legacy of love.