Tag Archives: children

Lessons on Love

My youngest, Miss Drama, does not have a phone or tablet of her own. She uses my phone to sometimes text her friends. It didn’t occur to her that since it’s MY phone, I’m totally going to read what was said.

For all you men out there reflecting back on your adolescence and wondering what girls said about you, well, it was pretty much this, and some of my friends’ spelling was equally bad and they couldn’t blame it on auto-correct.

 

According to the texts, her friend has a crush on a little boy, but clearly beauty is in the eye of the beholder because Miss Drama just isn’t seeing it.

Screenshot_20160505-111952

But back to her admirer….

So class, what have we learned? The way to a 10 year old’s heart is to be funny and not have a triangle head, and maybe not to go overboard with saying “you’re hot” all the time and trying to “protect” your crush when she doesn’t ask you to. That gets you named a “do do bird”.

La la la…I can’t hear you!!!

What one word inspires instant embarrassment in Miss Drama?

Puberty.

I had her captive in the car with no one else, so I took the opportunity to ask if she had questions. She’ll be heading off to middle school this fall and this is about the time I had the talk with her brother and sister.

She got very squirmy in the back seat. “I know everything!”

Uh-huh. When I quizzed her a bit, she did indeed know the basics, but was highly relieved to discover that babies cannot spontaneously sprout from her eggs.

When I asked her if she understood what sex was, she stuck her fingers in her ears and gave me a very eloquent reply, “Lalala.” Her brother and sister squirmed too, but wanted to fact check what they knew. Miss Drama hasn’t gotten there yet.

I dropped the subject, letting her know I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable, but if she had questions, she could ask them whenever.

Fastforward a couple of days. I woke to cthulu calling from the deep through our pipes. Sewage water backed up in both bathrooms. Gross. The plumber is on his way.

I gave Miss Drama instructions not to flush or stick toilet paper in the toilet right now. Not long after she informed me she opted to pee in the litter box instead.

Better than the yard?

Oh the blackmail fodder she hands me!

Somehow, I don’t think dating and sex are going to be important topics for her for a long while yet.

 

 

 

Welcome to the other side

No I don’t mean this one…

Adele

I’m referring to the land of teen snark from whence I once drove my parents batty. Now, granted I didn’t really go all that far afield; not a thousand miles for sure. Nope, I am a permanent resident of the adult snark and sarcasm municipality.

That being said, I suspect Mr. Smarty-Pants may end up as mayor long before I’m old and gray. He’s especially fond of real life trolling. What’s an example? I’m glad you asked. Here’s a perfect one that just so happens to relate to writing.

So, with the upcoming release of book 2 of my Crossroads of Fate series *shameless plug* I’m trying to think of little things I can add to a vendor table to catch the eye, sell, and hopefully use to encourage book sales. People like art. I suck at art. Guess who doesn’t suck at art? Yep, you guessed it, Mr. Smarty-Pants.

Me: If I described characters or scenes, do you think you’d be able to draw them?

Mr. Smarty-pants: You write porn, right? I’m not drawing porn.

Me: I do NOT write porn.

Mr. Smarty-pants: Ah, okay. So naked people?

Me: NO! There’s Delaney, and while she would wear leather, no skin would show.

Mr. Smarty-pants: Oh I see, so latex?

Me: NO! No latex!

Mr. Smarty-pants: Wait, are there gay vampires?

Me: No….well, not in this series.

Mr. Smarty-pants: See, you write porn.

Me: No, I write HBO type adventures. Can we get back to the scene thing? *starts describing scene*.

Mr. Smarty-pants: So who gets betrayed in “Betrayals” and what’s the weapon?

Me: Well, really it’s a series of people screwing others over to get what they want. *goes back to describing a character*

Mr. Smarty-pants: *interrupts* Screwing? Oh, so you want a picture of an open condom?

Me: …. No. No. No.

Mr. Smarty-pants: *Laughs like an evil villain*. So, what’s the deadline?

 

And that, dear interwebz, is my son.

 

Say again?

I’ve been doing this whole parenting thing for close to 15 years. Some things with children seem Sisyphean, like insisting my socks don’t disappear into their room, or requesting they NOT leave dishes all over the house. One particular battle that drives me nuts involves their dirty clothes. If they want to carpet their room with them, fine, but the bathroom is a shared space.

I have put various laundry baskets in the bathroom with instructions to put their dirty clothes on there. Somehow they would end up everywhere BUT the basket. Floor? Check. Sink? Check. Litter box? Check. (Yes, I am just as grossed out as you are by that.)

I had taken the last basket out awhile back to haul clothes to the laundry room. It wasn’t as if they noticed it was gone.

The other day Miss Diva says as she cleans the bathroom. “We should have a basket in here!”

I responded, “Y’all have had one.”

“When?”

“Countless times. Somehow you never use it.”

She didn’t believe me. Now that SHE out one in there, it is magically being utilized.

I am clearly doing this all wrong. I should just toss them into the wilds and see if they survive. I figure they would. I’m not sure I would stay sane through their trial and error though.

Safe Haven

It’s summer and once again, more often than not, there’s an extra child in the house. For at least three years this has been a thing. At first it was Mr. Smarty-pant’s friend, K. He lived down the street, but spent nearly every day here and frequently spent the night. I fed him. I took him to the park, the zoo, to movies. He lived his whole life in Memphis and had only been to the zoo once in pre-k on a class trip, and had never been to the river or to Shelby Farms.

He had a good relationship, from what I heard, with his dad, but his dad lived in MS and he didn’t get to see him that often. In all the years he lived on our street, his mother never more than waved at me. His ex-con, gang-member step-dad was more courteous. The relationship between K’s mom and his step-dad was apparently tumultuous, which is why K spent as much time as possible at our house. That, and I serve some really awesome food, even if soup is on the menu more often than a teenage boy would prefer.

At the end of last summer K moved to a townhouse a mile or two away. He still visits frequently, but it’s just far enough that he can’t slip out of the house and just wander over whenever he likes.

So, this summer Mr. Smarty-pants has another friend who is a regular fixture in his room, J. J is a smart kid, polite, and treated like the red-headed stepchild at home. His sister is spoiled and her behavior was such that both Miss Drama and Miss Diva quit trying to be friends with her. To be honest, she’s just plain mean. Meanwhile, J’s mom has had a stint of unemployment and hospitalization due to illness. Even on nights where he went home, I’ve fed him, because Mr. Smarty-Pants quietly informed me that J didn’t have any food at home. This morning I quietly asked if J’s mom knew where he was. Mr. Smarty-pants replied, “That’s part of the problem. She doesn’t really care.”

Mr. Smarty-pants may complain and whine about how mean I am. He’ll sulk when I don’t let him wander the neighborhood at 9pm at night. It might chafe his, “I’m totally almost grown” mentality, until his inner little boy pops up and reminds him that I make him waffles, and let him have some of my coffee, and care enough to demand he get his butt home when I say so. He thanked me for the waffles and bacon this morning. He has his moments.

Going on six years ago, Mr. Smarty-pant’s dad and I split up and he moved to his own place. Before that, neighborhood kids never came in the house unless he was out. They avoided him like the plague. Animals didn’t like him either. I know, I should have taken note. Anyways, it didn’t take long for the children to congregate once he left. I certainly didn’t pull out my pied pipe. At the time I projected a bit of a “Mean Mom” aura so that none were tempted to misbehave, but then JD fell down and got a gash on his head and I fixed him up.  My cover was blown.

There were occasional Popsicles offered and fresh-baked homemade cookies. I would talk to them when they asked about my garden. I’d teach them little things and they’d listen. I, in turn listened when they talked, something I suspect few adults they knew did. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that all of Mr. Smarty-pants’ friends realized that when they needed a safe place to cry, to get some food, or just to have a place to laugh and be happy, his house was the place to go.

I accuse Mr. Smarty-pants of being conniving because his friends will help him with chores. After all, he has a chronic case of lazy. Some of it is his charm, but I think some of it is quiet gratitude from his friends. One of them, JQ maybe, JD, heck it may even have been D…I forget which, once scolded Mr. Smarty-pants in front of their whole little gang of friends, because he gave me attitude when I read him the riot act for doing such a crappy job with the yard that I had to essentially redo it.

I didn’t plan on being the safe haven, exactly. It sort of just happened. I suspect it had to do with my own mom sending me outside to “play” AKA “keep an eye on” the little pre-k kids that lived on our street when I was about Mr. Smarty-pants’ age. For the record, “playing” with half a dozen kids between the ages of three and six was exhausting, even for a fourteen year-old. I’d tag my brother to take a turn and catch a breather, and he’d have the kids laughing and giggling, and the little ones used him as a jungle gym. Even at fourteen, I knew a three year old had no business outside without an older sibling or a parent watching. When my mom felt it was time for us to come in we’d walk the little kids home, making sure each one was delivered to their parents.

In two or three decades, I imagine Mr. Smarty-Pants will be sitting in his recliner as a small mob of kids parade through his house. Much like me, part of him will pine for that thing parents rarely get….silence, but not for long. Laughter is far more satisfying and infectious than silence. Besides, they do eventually sleep.

Memory Lane

It’s funny how the mind can skip from one random event to another and draw connections. Our minds evolved to see patterns and connections because it helped us survive. So, it isn’t really all that surprising that your mind can go tripping through memories if you let it.

The other day I accidentally hit a bird with the car. I know. I was very sad about this, especially when I noted its bird buddies’ concern. I didn’t kill it, but it definitely was injured. I was already merging into traffic and couldn’t really stop. Normally birds are excellent flyers and get out of the way, and I usually slow down a bit to give them plenty of time. That day I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t. 😦

For whatever reason, this reminded me of the time my sister came home all worked up about hitting a racoon. I believe there was more to the story, but I don’t recall it. That memory blip jumped to a time where I was carting one of Justin’s friends home. As we crossed a little bridge over a drainage canal I braked for an animal that was in the road. It was a HUGE rat. I may possibly have shrieked a little.

As my brain pulled up that incident, my eighteen year old self felt not so different from my nearly thirty-six year old self. I’ve lived nearly as much additional life now as I had up to that point, and yet while I’ve grown in many ways, I’m still very much the same girl who braked for a rat. My brother’s presence in the back seat and the kid in the front felt very close to the teens I cart around now and my own son. Mr. Smarty-Pants does not physically favor his uncle, but he got a heaping helping of his personality. Sure, he is very much his own person, but the similarities at times are striking. Justin teased me for braking for a rat, just as Mr. Smarty-Pants once urged me to gun for a turkey that ran across the road so we could eat it (I didn’t). It really isn’t a surprise that my brain can draw connections between events related only by an animal in the road and a vehicle barreling toward it.

My relationship with my little brother was a combination of camaraderie and motherliness, as being the eldest I felt it my job to watch out for my younger siblings. My relationship with my son bears the same combination of feelings, albeit in different proportions, and so of course, is prone to sparking that random memory connection. When speaking to family members, it is not uncommon for me to have to correct names, as the wrong one slips out. That rarely happens when I’m talking directly to my children, but add in the connection to my sister or my parents, or my grandparents, and my brain trips over a lifetime networked memories.

They say that the more connections one makes with regards to a memory, the less likely one is to forget it. We used to joke that my mother remembered everything. I don’t proclaim to recall everything, but people have remarked that I do have very good recall. I can tell you the plot of the first really long chapter book I read at maybe 10 years old. I can remember playing hide-and-seek with my mom and being eye-level with her dog. I recall visiting my brother in the ICU (although I buried that one for awhile), and  seeing my sister on the fuzzy ultrasound screen. I remember pulling up the carpet in the apartment at age four to watch the little ants underneath scurry about their little ant lives. I remember dissecting a washed and dried ball of paper when I was maybe 3 or 4 and wondering if there was something in it. Fast forward and I’m sitting at the dining room table at age 6 or 7 in the summer and my brother is telling some silly joke about trains. It was the kind of joke that only made sense to a kid and I’ve long forgotten the details, but that moment of pure happiness, with everyone laughing until their sides ached, that moment remains crystal clear. I can rattle off plenty more, some happy, some sad, some a mix, but the point is that they are primarily ordinary days doing nothing in particular.

All of that reminds me to cherish the little random moments in life. People make a big deal about the big key moments, life events, but in truth when your brain goes skipping down memory lane it’s snapshots of every day life that paint the portrait of your past. Years from now when my grandchildren are my children’s age now, more connections will be made and it won’t be the “big days” so much as the little things, like telling Ms. Drama that the window is not a door, or cuddling with Miss Diva while watching a TV show, or shrieking when Mr. Smarty-Pants sneaks up behind me and picks me up—his uncle did that too.

Just this past weekend I shared with Miss Diva the bit of wisdom that happiness comes from within you. It comes from living in the moment and seeing the beauty even in the midst of less than ideal circumstances. Happiness isn’t a destination or a reward, but a state of mind, a contentment that comes from love.

Moment in Time

Earlier today Soup King was hunting for some particular books, but most of the books had been packed in optimistic hope I’d land a job out of town. Instead, I’m working here, but unsure if I should unpack or leave the stack of boxes in the living room for the next year. In any case, in the process I rescued a pile of old snapshots, negatives, and a small photo album. I opened the photo album and inside were pictures from when I was in high school. I’ve seen them a hundred times, but this time it wasn’t a quick glance, smile, and close of the album.

My eyes lingered on a picture of my brother and myself. It’s possibly one of the absolute worst pictures of me ever, but my smile is genuine as is Justin’s. The moment, frozen in time on film captured our bond.  He’d helped me on a school project, adding his artistic touches when in truth there was no reason for him to do so. I think maybe my dad blustered him into helping and I begged. If I attempted to paint the shark on that cardboard boat it would have looked like ridiculous googly eyes.

Justin (14) Me (16)

Justin (14) Me (16)

There might be other pictures of us taken over the next three years, but I can’t really recall any. My senior year was filled with activity and the three grade levels between us meant we lived in totally different social realms. After I graduated, I moved off to college and my short visits didn’t really have much in the way of picture taking. Not to mention, he was at that age where he often avoided the camera because, dude, he was too cool for that.

As I looked at that photo I realized my son is just about the same age now. There’s a faint resemblance, although not a lot. Mr. Smarty Pants may look a great deal different and of course he is very much his own person, but he shares a remarkable similarity in interests, aptitude, and personality.

Both my son and my brother out-class me in sheer IQ power, but both preferred gaming to doing boring homework. Justin devoured history books for the sheer love of the subject. My son’s favorite reading topic? History. Mr. Smarty Pants inherited the same talent for art which turned that blank cardboard boat into a shark.  He has a deep, beautiful singing voice he’d rather no one heard, the same as his uncle. As the years go by, I find it hard to recall my brother’s voice, but I suspect Mr. Smarty Pants shares more than a passing similarity. Even the ups and downs of their report cards mirror each other.

Growing up with Justin gave me insight and patience that has aided me in maintaining a strong bond with my son. While mother-son is far different than sister-brother, I was the big sister and “little mother” growing up. So, while some days I just shake my head and roll my eyes at Mr. Smarty Pants’ teenage angst, I do so with the knowledge that these next few years pass by so very quickly. He’ll be a young man in just over four years and the maturity will come, sometimes at a frustrating snail’s pace and at other times frighteningly fast.

The teen years strained my relationship with my brother, and to a lesser degree with my sister. We had different lives and my life in college was vastly different than that of my kid brother’s in high school. The last conversation I had with my brother took place early January of 1999. We rambled about all kinds of things: plans, dreams, troubles. At that point though, all the prior tension of being in different worlds melted away. He was growing up and once again we were not only friends once more, but held mutual respect for each other. No matter that we were very different people, we liked each other and knew without a doubt we could rely on each other.

I used to wish I could have said more, been more present in the last few months of my brother’s life, but I let go of my regrets. People say that time heals loss and that you cease to grieve with time. It doesn’t work exactly that way. Grief is not so much an action as a part of you which you come to accept. With time it gets buried under all the other little pieces that make up who you are, but you are the collection of all those little pieces. It doesn’t take much to move aside the pieces and shine a light on that painful piece– painful because only love can leave so lasting an impression. It can blind you with its intensity, as wrenching and painful as the moment you first felt it.

Sixteen years ago I shared the last of many, many conversations and hugged my brother for the last time, but the love and laughter we shared remain.