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  • The Swimming Pool

    June 18, 2009

    Recently Sean and I were at our neighborhood pool making the most of a late summer afternoon.  Sean is still not a confident swimmer.  Swimming is just one of those things that he is going to have to come to terms with at his own pace.  I have come to accept that.  I have learned and backed off.  The most I do now is  encourage him to experiment more, to be more adventurous.  To this he firmly says, “No danks!”  No. Way. And we leave it at that.

    After we had been at the pool for awhile, another family showed up with a little boy who is a full year younger than Sean, but a better swimmer.  He has a beefier build.  He’s more boisterous and aggressive; he’s one of those little guys who love to rough house and punch and karate kick and that kind of thing.  That’s all well and good, but it’s not our style.  Sean and his daddy rough house, but our policy is that you don’t put your hands on other people.

    The other boy wanted to play with Sean, and at first Sean was interested, but it wasn’t long before he grew weary of being punched.  A couple of times I saw Sean stiff arm him and say “Stop it!” but I figured it was a good opportunity for Sean to work it out for himself so I stayed out of it.  Although honestly?  I really wanted to go over and kick some four-year-old butt.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

    At one point, I looked over at Sean and we locked eyes.  I could see he was looking for a rescue.  “Dude! Come here for a minute,” I called.  It gave him a dignified out and he came over to splash around with me on the steps of the big pool. For 38 seconds.

    Then the little guy followed.  He did cannon balls within inches of Sean.  He shoved Sean off the steps.  He continued to try to agitate him.  Sean tried to politely ignore him to no avail. Finally he resorted to going underwater to get some peace.  At this point, the little boy grabs Sean around the waist and holds him under water. Right in front of me.

    Big. Mistake.

    Sean thrashes and panics.

    I look over at the mother and she is reading a magazine and talking on her phone. She is oblivious.

    At that moment, the ire of every mother bear that ever existed rose in my chest and filled my throat.  It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. I wasn’t mad so much as stirred by something primal. And frankly, that kind of scared me.

    I bent over and pulled the boy off of Sean, and as I am setting him on the edge of the pool, I whisper a warning in his ear — but the voice that rumbles out of my throat is not mine but Darth Vader’s.  “Keep. Your. Hands. Off. My. Boy.”

    “Or I will hurt you.” No, I didn’t say that part, but I was surely thinking it.

    I give him a look that makes it clear that I mean business.  He stares back at me with eyes as big as pancakes.  I narrow my eyes like Clint Eastwood to punctuate my point. He gets up and wanders over to his mother.

    And I wish I could say that was that. But that was not that.

    He continued to come back and pester us.  So we called it a day and went home.

    So then, no tidy moral of the story other than don’t mess with my kid and no happy ending other than I am not writing this from jail.

    I Digress And Call It A Post

    May 11, 2009

    So then, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Or Sunday. Whatever. To me, Mother’s Day ranks right up there with Boxing Day. I can take it or leave it.  I know. In your head right now, you are saying, “What kind of mother doesn’t like Mother’s Day!” Did you think I couldn’t hear that?

    Regardless of whatever personal issues I have with the highest of the Hallmark holy days, I am still obligated to participate.  I crumble easily under the weight of societal expectations to buy flowers and cards and to festively order others to “Have a happy (insert occasion) day!” I just go along. I grumble, but I go along.

    Texas has been gray and wet for what seems like two years now, but according to the newspapers it has actually only been two weeks.  And yesterday, Mother’s Day, was no different.  So we drove up to Tuna under a gray cloud of drizzly rain to have lunch with Memaw to celebrate Mother’s Day.

    When we arrived, we exclaimed “Happy Mother’s Day” in a festive tone and then we sat down to eat too much.  Papa George had fixed us a yummy meal and it was swell all the way around even though I had to do the dishes.

    When we got home late in the afternoon, we noticed an odd bright orb in the sky, so we Googled “bright orb in the sky” and we were delightfully surprised to find out that it was the sun. A few little sunbeams and my girlish giddy and glee returned to wash away all my sour feelings surrounding having a national day set aside to honor the fact that I managed to procreate.

    A few sunbeams were all it took for Sean too.  He raced into the house and put on his swimming suit.  And when a 38-pound boy wearing a swimming suit, snorkel and mask is standing in your den, the cuteness will short circuit your brain and you will be rendered powerless to do anything other than say “Okay!”  And that’s how we ended up at the swimming pool late in the afternoon on Mother’s Day.

    In my opinion, the water in the swimming pool was fuh-reee-zzzzing!  But according to Sean, the water was “refreshant!” Although my research is not scientific, I believe that human children learn to discern uncomfortably cold swimming pool water around the same time they develop sense enough to come in out of the rain. Unlike chickens however, human children will not drown if they look up when it’s raining. This fact, I have proven scientifically. I’m not sure how that relates to anything heretofore.

    So, I sat a safe distance from the edge of the pool and its uncomfortably cold water to watch my scrawny little boyfriend jump in and out of the pool about 658 times;  each time crafting a unique approach and/or creative pose for the amusement of his mother.

    “Mom!” he shouted as zipped past in a blur, “Memaw’s AND swimming, all in the SAME day! This is the best day EVER!” And then he disappeared into a big splash of chilly water.  My heart was drenched in joy.

    So yeah, Mother’s Day was the best day ever.  And so was every day of the last five and a half years.

    The Invisible Line

    January 13, 2009

    I remember the first time I heard Sean call me mom instead of mommy.  It was in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  As we got out of the car, he reached up and grabbed my hand and said in his best grown-up voice, “You better hold my hand mom, parking lots can be dangerous.”

    I remember how my ears perked up when he said mom.  It was an awakening sort of sound, like at a wedding when someone clinks a spoon on a wine glass — a sound that rises above and is out of rhythm with the other noise of life and makes you stop what you are doing and take note of the moment.

    It seemed that in that moment we crossed over an invisible line – mommy on one side and mom on the other, baby on one side and boy on the other.

    But the other day, he slipped up and he called me mommy.  He didn’t even notice it, but I did.

    And once again, it was the clear call of a tiny bell that says,  stop and listen, take note.  It was a sweet sweet sound in my ear, to be called mommy again, for the first time in a long while.

    I wanted to stand very still and savor the moment because I know I won’t be crossing back over that invisible line into babyhood again. We have gone too far.  And honestly, I don’t desire to swim against the currents of time.

    But it sure was nice to visit.

    Bitter Fruit

    January 4, 2009

    Saturday afternoon, Sean and AD took a break from deconstructing Christmas and walked to the park to enjoy the rare winter blessing of sunny and 74.

    I finished up a few things and then walked over to join them. As I made my way across the street I could see Sean on the swing set with another boy, both trying to touch the clouds with their toes.

    I walked up behind them and listened to them chattering little boy nonsense for a few seconds before the other boy noticed me standing there.

    “Your grandma is here,” he said to Sean.

    Sean turned his head and saw me standing behind the swing set and then quickly turned back without meeting my eyes.

    “That’s my mom,” Sean said quietly in a way that pieced my heart.

    No greeting or further acknowledgment was made of my presence.

    I’ve been mistaken for Sean’s grandma a number of times in the past five years and honestly, it hasn’t really bothered me. In fact, I usually find it kind of funny.  This time I didn’t find it funny because it wasn’t about me. It was about Sean and his brand new awareness of how others see me.

    I don’t really much care what other people think about me but to think that I might be an embarrassment to my child hurt my heart a little bit.   When I embarrass him in front of his friends, and I will, I want it to be on purpose.

    Up to this point, in Sean’s eyes, I have been a vision of motherly perfection.  Like a clumsy affectionate puppy dog, he is happy just to be in my company.  He is oblivious to my wrinkles and graying hair and imperfections.  It has probably never occurred to him that his mom is “a little older” than the other kid’s moms.

    But now, I could tell in his voice, in the softly defensive way he said “that’s my mom” that he had taken his first bite of the bitter fruit that falls from the tree of a social awareness.

    And I wanted to whack him on the back of the head and make him spit it out.

    A Children Ache

    December 28, 2008

    Every night before bedtime, and sometimes before school, Sean and AD will read at least one chapter from a book of children’s classics.

    Having gone through most of the other more exciting and well known titles, we are down to Pollyanna. But he is just as enthralled with Pollyanna as he was with The Swiss Family Robinson.

    Stepping up to chapter books like Tom Sawyer and Oliver Twist has presented many opportunities to talk about some of the more unsavory and unpleasant aspects of life.  Many of the characters are orphaned or suffer cruelty at the hands of those who should protect them.  And there is always a concern to AD and me over how much of this kind of information is appropriate for a five-year-old.

    But the thing about Sean that continually amazes us is how wise he is beyond his years and how tenderly perceptive he is about the human condition and matters of the heart.  Although we would certainly like to claim credit for that,  it’s simply the way God made him.

    If you don’t recall or haven’t read the story of Pollyanna, she is a young girl who was orphaned and goes to live with her Aunt Polly who is a cold and crusty middle-aged spinster.  Aunt Polly suffered a thwarted romance early in her life which left her bitter and she has never gotten over it.  Aunt Polly has a big house, yet she makes Pollyanna sleep in a hot, stuffy, bleak attic and in general gives Pollyanna no affection.  Nonetheless, as the story goes, it is Pollyanna’s way to see the silver lining in every gray cloud.

    At one point in the story, AD stopped reading and looked over the book at Sean who was lying in bed.  “Why do you suppose Aunt Polly is so gruff?” he asked.

    “I think she has a children ache,” Sean said quietly.

    “Oh Sean,” AD sighed, “I think you are so right. A lot of times when people are gruff on the outside, and sad or mean, it’s because they are hurting on the inside.”

    It’s true. I had a children ache once too.

    Alzheimers and Home Improvement Found To Be Closely Related

    October 16, 2008

    Last week, as you may recall, I embarked on a home improvement project. I decided it was time to re-do my guest room and bath.  By my estimate, I’m about half way through.

    The thing is, home improvement projects always take a little more time and money than you delude yourself into believing going into it.  I’ve done fairly well on the money budget because I can turn a sow’s ear into a Dupioni silk pillow. I can flat out design on a dime.  But the time budget? Not so much.

    So far I have removed the wallpaper from the bathroom and I have painted the guest bedroom walls and ceilings.  I still have to texture the bathroom walls, then prime the bathroom walls, then paint the bathroom walls and then probably glaze the bathroom walls at which point I will wonder what in the heck was wrong with the wallpaper in the first place and then I will  possibly punch myself in the face.

    Here’s the breakdown of how much time I’ve spent on this project so far:

    Moving furniture out of guest room:  1 hour

    Dislodging mattress from stair case:  45 minutes

    Removing switch plates: 30 minutes

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the screw driver: 1 hour

    Combing the carpet for the teeny tiny switch plate screws that I dropped:  1 hour

    Removing wallpaper:  6 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the scraper:  2 hours

    Painting:  6 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down the paint brush/paint can opener/stir stick/drop cloth:  2 hours

    Wiping paint off the bottom of my foot:  45 minutes

    Wandering around looking for my glasses which were on my head: 2 hours

    Wandering around trying to remember where I set down my iced tea:  2 hours

    Wandering around looking for the cordless phone:  45 minutes

    Have you ever noticed they never show Bob Villa wandering aimlessly around the set wondering where he set down his screwdriver? Of course they don’t, it’s a one hour show.

    If The Food Doesn’t Kill You, The Parking Lot Will

    October 9, 2008

    This morning, after I dropped Sean off at school, I pulled into the McDonald’s drive-through for a cup of coffee to fuel my daily adventures in wallpaper scraping. 

    This is one of those McDonald’s where the drive-through wraps around the building so that as you exit the building, you have to pass not only in front of the cars in the drive-through but you also then have to cross a small parking lot where other cars are bypassing the drive-through and yet other cars are backing out.  I find this set up to be especially precarious as on more than one occasion I have nearly been run over as I exited the building by someone in a McHurry. 

    It would be somewhat less of a problem if people would just drive sensibly and drive 5mph through the parking lot, but I know this is America and driving sensibly probably interferes with your individuality. However, if you are one of those people who barrels through the McDonald’s parking lot while yacking it up on your cell phone, be aware that there is always a good chance that a) a toddler has wrenched away from her mother’s grasp and is darting across the parking lot or b) someone in an enormous SUV is backing out and can’t see you. It’s a tragedy just waiting to happen. 

    Such was the case this morning.  Today, as I was waiting in the drive-through line, I saw this elderly couple shuffling out of the building, linked arm-in-arm, holding each other upright.  Before they passed in front of my car, the gentleman caught my eye to make sure I wasn’t going run them over. I gave them the go ahead sign, he saluted and off they shuffled.  Just as they passed in front of me and were about to step into the parking lot, a sporty little car came zipping past and nearly ran them over. 

    I gasped and put my hands to my face afraid of what I might find when I opened my eyes.  By the grace of God, their reflexes were miraculously quicker than their gait and they stepped back just as the car whizzed past and pulled into a parking space. 

    I was really angry. I did not need that kind of adrenaline surge before I had my coffee.  As I waited for zippy car driver to get out and head towards the building, I rehearsed my mom lecture. I was ready to roll down my window and bring the matter to their attention in no uncertain terms. 

    But zippy car driver turned out not to be a young person but a spry elderly woman.  And somehow a mom lecture didn’t seem right. 

    Because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I just shook my head at her instead as she passed in front of my car, but she didn’t look my way.

    Antique Mommy’s Bail Out Plan – Step Two

    October 2, 2008

    Here’s where all you lovely people who left nice comments yesterday will turn against me.  But it has to be said. This financial crisis? It’s your fault. Well, not all your fault, but you are a component of this complicated mess.  No, no, not you personally.  Well maybe you personally, I don’t know, but I mean you and me, the American public — Democrats and Republicans and yes, even those wacky Independents, those crazy kids. 

    This crisis has been in the making for the last 40 years.  Universally speaking — which means I’m speaking generally and not specifically about you or your child, because no, you are charming and responsible as is your child — but we have done a cruddy, cruddy job of teaching our kids about money, teaching them to understand its power and teaching them to respect it.  We’ve not taught our children to delay gratification, to save up, to be good stewards.  We’ve got to do better and not to overstate it, but our nation depends on it. We can’t keep going on this way.

    I think most of the people who got caught up in mortgages they couldn’t afford were not bad people, but people who did not understand what they were getting into, people who were drunk on the notion of getting nicer homes for their families, people who did not understand money.  I think mortgage lenders took advantage of them because they could and because they were getting rich in doing so.  I don’t want my child to be taken advantage of in this way, I want him to understand how the system of money works.

    So then, Step Two of Antique Mommys Bail Out Plan includes Mandatory Financial Education starting in 1st grade or sooner.

    Yes, you read that right — 1st grade. Or sooner.

    I personally think that financial education, like sex education, would best be taught at home where parents can teach their children not just about the mechanics of money, but also about respect. Since that obviously is not happening, our education system needs to teach kids the fundamentals of economics, credit and compounding interest and the importance of saving and the consequence of buying things you can’t afford with money you don’t have. And I just don’t think you can start too soon.

    Earlier this year, we bought Sean the book The Ox Cart Man, a very simple story about a farmer and his family who work the land and bring the fruits of their labor to market. It is a story that explains at the most basic level the economic cycle from farm to market and back again.

    Reading the story has presented us with many opportunities to talk with Sean (a four-year-old) about how the things we buy at the store get there and how we pay for them, where we get our money to pay for the stuff we buy at the store and how our family always always has to balance our supply of money with our demand for the things we need so that we don’t run out of money – not just for today but well into the future. He has been hearing this message since he was about two. By the time he’s 18 and heading off to college, hopefully it will be engrained in his thinking that money is a powerful and precious resource that is to be handled with care and respect. If not, he will be in for a hard lesson because, unlike the government, his parents will not bail him out.

    I urge you strongly to start talking to your kids about money right this very day and to make it part of your daily conversation. Look for opportunities for them to experience the consequences of good and bad financial decisions now while the price of a mistake is low.  But more importantly remember that you already ARE teaching your kids about money by your own spending and saving habits and attitudes. They are watching you closely.

    So then.  What are you going to do to be a part of the solution?  Other than the extra $7000-$10,000 you’ll be paying in taxes.  What are you going to do to equip your children to be financially responsible adults and change the fate of our nation? 

    * * * * *

    Step Three of Antique Mommy’s Bail Out tomorrow which involves making it illegal for credit card companies to send me blank checks and unsolicited credit card applications. Leave a comment or email me with your suggestions for reform and if I like them, I’ll incorporate them and give you credit for your super awesome fiscal fabulousness.

    Antique Mommy’s Bail Out Plan

    October 1, 2008

    Step One: Seize all the assets of the CEO’s, CFO’s and anyone else involved in the failed institutions with a $15 million golden parachute (or any parachute with the word million), including homes, foreign assets, art, cars, furniture and clothes that are not from Target or Wal-Mart — including the college fund for their kids. Sorry – the whole sins of the father thing. And also because thanks to their irresponsible and unethical actions, a lot of middle class kid’s college funds are gone, so it seems fair to me. Finally, they should be banned from working in the financial industry for all eternity.

    In exchange for jail time, they should be given a minimum wage job so that they too could have the joy of earning a living and not be a further drain on American resouces.

    That’s it. The rest of my plan needs work.

    Edited to add: I just thought of step two. I’ll post it tomorrow.

    Birthday Party, Round 4

    November 16, 2007

    When I was a little girl and I had my birthday, it was a birthDAY. You got a little cake, maybe a toy, maybe a few extra privileges and then the next day, back to reality, back to scrubbing floors and waiting on my ugly stepsisters.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    Sean?  He has a birthMONTH.  It’s a social season.

    The party circuit kicked off earlier in the month when my parents were visiting. We had cake, we had presents, we had fun.

    Then, the day before his birthday, Sean’s best friend and her parent’s came over with a very cool present and took us all to see the entertaining Bee movie.

    Then on his official birthday, the two sets of surrogate grandparents brought over four of their grandchildren.  More presents and more cake and more fun.  Because I’m an idiot (don’t tell Sean I just used that bad word) I got all the little children high on cake and THEN gave them those New Year’s Eve style horn blowers.  The man pictured above paid $1 to each child to buy their horn blower back. Bargain.

    Next week when we gather with the other grandparents there will be the giving of thanks and the feasting on the turkey and multiple pies. And then – you guessed it – cake and presents.  But no horn blowers.