Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mama's Boys

Being a grown-up can seriously suck your will to live sometimes.

Like today. 

Today marks three days that my husband has been out of town.  Three days that looked like this:


The boys and I deposit my best friend from high school at the airport so she could go back home to Seattle.  I went ahead and cried during our lunch that day so I could do something different on the car ride home.  Get lost.  In Burbank and eventually North Hollywood.  Because I have only been to Burbank airport 700 times and refused to pay for the navigation option in my car and refuse to use the Garmin Jeff bought me. 


We finally arrive home later than expected to have dinner (and by "dinner", I mean there was bread, a knife for spreading something, and a plate); then practice piano; then read together, during which I accepted and lost a $1 bet to Vince that the image of a snake we were looking at on page 15 of SNAKES CLOSEUP swallowing something large and scaly was swallowing not another snake but a fish.  Have you ever had a seven-year old turn back page after page in a book to make a point, his point, and in this case, settle a wager?

"See that?  See THAT?  Do you see those?  Do you see that?  Now, look at THAT.  Do those scales look ANYTHING like THOSE scales?  Do those scales look like SNAKE scales?  I don't think so, mommy.  Those are fish scales, mommy, and you owe me a dollar!"

Small time gambling and verbally dressing down your mother in the living room…is this really what learning to read is all about? 

Fortunately, Nick chose Dr. Suess' What Was I Scared Of? for his reading and I was able to convince him, with a 15-minutes-of-TV-before-bed-bribe, that it was best just to sail through the pages sitting right there on the couch.  This versus taking the time to go upstairs to my closet and climb under our favorite quilt so we could read by flashlight, turning the flashlight off at the end of each page so we could see the pants, the moon and the Suess-creature glow in the dark.  Ahhh, the at-times completely exhausting magic and wonder of phosphorescence

Brush, floss, rinse, jammies, bed for them.  Pick-up, do laundry, prepare for new client meeting and tend to existing client campaigns for Mommy.


By some miracle, I have a beautiful friend right here in my neighborhood who does things like agree to watch my boys from 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. on the second to last day of summer when I have to drive more than 80 miles to a new client meeting.  She also does things like call me at 8:45 a.m. that morning to say things like, "Should we come over a little earlier?  Is 9:30 enough time for you to get there because we're ready now?"  Then, when you're leaving your meeting and walking out to your car, she texts you an image of your boys and her darling daughter jumping into the pool so you know your children are not only in the BEST care possible but also having FUN!

After returning home at 2 o'clock and relieving aforementioned wonder-friend , the boys and I actually had the opportunity to lay down together and decompress.  Our chosen method of decompression was none other than a viewing of "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  Their pick.  And it's still great the 15th time around.  Even in August.  My sister gave them the Charlie Brown DVD pack including Halloween, Thanksgiving, This is America, and Christmas a few years ago.  They're all good.  Who am I kidding?  The Constitution and The Mayflower drag but the others are entertaining.

Our dog Stitch wanders over to join us by the couch around the time the Woodstock family was doing their candy-cane number and I am reminded again that his bad breath is now complimented by a foul smell in general.  It's time to book a grooming appointment.  I am up, on the phone and in front of the computer, and while I'm at it, booking some grooming appointments for Vince and Nick.  Their long, sun-kissed locks are borderline screaming Spicoli at this point, especially Nick's.   

Decompression quickly ends and appointment making turns to email checking and email checking turns to conference call scheduling and the next thing I know, it's almost 5 p.m.; the boys have become one with my iPad and I need to order a pizza.

Next, razor-riding without helmets up and down the sidewalk with neighbor kids until sun sets, brushing, flossing, rinsing, jammies.  Short, pinot noir induced talk about being independent and making new friends.  Aaaaand SCENE!  

We all go nigh-nigh.


I actually felt slightly in control for most of the day.  I woke early to send emails before the boys woke up.  Dishwasher was emptied.  Guest sheets washed and dried.  The boys and I had breakfast together.  We delivered Stitch to the groomer by 8:45.  Piano was practiced with little prodding.  All exercised personal hygiene fundamentals without prodding, including me.

Work was completed.  Afternoon haircuts were uneventful.  I take that back.  A faux-hawk request was made and approved.  Why not?  It's just product.

We made the highly anticipated trek to our elementary school in the late afternoon hours to find out WHO WE GOT.  And as sad as this sounds, I was more concerned about classmates than teachers.  And they're only seven!  It's not like any of the student body is racking up misdemeanors at this point.  Not that I know of, anyway.  We headed to five o'clock piano lessons with a skip in our step.  Even though Vince and Nick wouldn't be able to look across their classroom and see their brother for the first time tomorrow at 8:25 a.m., they felt comfortable with the kids' names I read to each of them from the list posted on the wall in the Multi-Purpose Room (MPR).  I need to re-name every one of the rooms in my home that, by the way. 

I sent the boys off to their piano instructors at the music studio somewhat hurriedly, I'll admit.  I had to run back to the car to grab one of Nick's books.  But they were off.  It gave me the opportunity to "talk teachers" with some of the other moms for 30 minutes.  The moms I had on text, anyway.  And then, much to my delight, my dear friend Germaine rang through.  She has recently started her own business AND has three kids, the two eldest of which are pubescent young women.  Kind of a busy gal, this Germaine.  She ALSO has ideas and good will as it relates to my book ever seeing the light of day (that's right, there's a book, of course there's a book). 

I stepped into the parking lot to not annoy the other waiting moms with my yammering.  Germaine and I were not four minutes into our conversation, had barely covered summer catch-up and gotten into the nitty-gritty of career goings-on, when Nick appeared alongside his instructor, both smiling and offering thumbs-up.  One broad smile and returned thumbs up from mama later and Nick was in the music studio lobby watching cartoons.

And then it happened.  Vince flew through the music studio front door and into the parking lot like a bat out of hell.  Red-faced and in tears.  The proverbial shit had hit the fan.

"Germaine, I gotta go!"

Did I really think something was really wrong?  Not really.

Did I understand by the scene alone that the time had finally come for Vince to say fare thee well to an instrument he had had a love-hate relationship with for the past two years?  Ab-so-smurfly!

But did I still want to climb out of my skin because I knew deep down that my sons' unwillingness to do things he doesn't "feel like doing" on any given day could color more important aspects of his development and life.  YES!  Of course, yes!  What kind of moron do you take me for?

He's only seven.  He's only seven.  He's only seven. 

It didn't matter how many times I repeated this in my head, I could still feel the vertical line between my eyebrows growing longer and deeper.  I was not pleased.

After a long conversation with his instructor-come-therapist, standing right there in the parking lot, we decided it was time to "take a break".  Vince overheard us use the word "quit" once and nearly had a coronary.  My exceedingly willful son has yet to understand that "quitting" is not always a dirty word.  Especially when you are frustrating the shit out of your piano instructor.     

"He reads the notes fine.  Some weeks are great.  We have really fun lessons and he plays beautifully, and others…"  Don trailed off.

The two of us had had this conversation before, just a few months ago in the spring.  I know Don didn't want to "give up" either.  Vince would always come around quickly and say he wanted to play.

"This is supposed to be fun.  This is supposed to be about enjoying music, interacting with music.  It just isn't working and it's not fair to either of you," I told Vince.  I was all calm, cool and collected as far as my words went.  "Now give Don a hug and say thank you." 

Don isn't creepy, by the way.  He's a young guy with a family.  A Steelers fan, always wears a Steelers hat.  My dad made me wear a Steelers snowsuit as a young kid so Don and I are like kindred spirits.  In my mind.

I quickly peeked into the window to find Nick sitting alongside some boy and the two were sharing a game on the boy's iPhone.  I am reminded again that my sons' own, individual natures; the way they are "wired", seems to far exceed the impact of any "nurturing" we have attempted these past seven years.

We say our good-byes and I lead the boys into the car.  Next stop: grocery store.  I try not to talk as I pull out of the parking lot, then:

"Is Vince in trouble?" from Nick.

"Yea, am I in trouble?"

"No, Vince isn't in trouble.  Vince, you're not in trouble.  You're just not doing piano anymore."

"I'm taking a break." I see Vince's small smirk in my rearview mirror. 

Is he smirking because he thinks he won or because he really doesn't enjoy it?  Was he only playing because he felt Jeff and I wanted him to?  I guess time will tell.

Small wishes for treats at the market are granted.  We even rent a movie that we don't have time to finish once dinner is over.  Marie Callendar's microwave lasagna was a real crowd pleaser.  The boys seem to go to bed easily but Nick joins me in my room while I am talking to Jeff on the phone.

"I just can't sleep, mommy."

"I understand.  Here, talk to Daddy."  I hand him the receiver and he hops up on our bed.

I walk Nick back to his room and tuck him in again.  Another kiss goodnight.  Another big hug.

Now I'm done.  Right now, I'm done.  But I'm not done.  Tomorrow is a big day.  My boys start second grade.  And I separated them for the first time.  Which classroom door will I linger by longer?  10 or 11?  I don't want them to see me cry.  I know I'll cry.  I always do.  They're my babies.  

And Jeff isn't here.  I have no Jeff to just pull me off the campus and say, "Jesus Christ, Lizzie.  They're seven.  They're second graders.  This is what's supposed to happen.  This is what they're supposed to do.  It's not the end of the world.  And you get to be there to stand right outside their classrooms when they get out at 2:30.  My mom couldn’t do that.  My mom was at work.  They're lucky and you're lucky.  Shit, I'm more worried that they're going to be a couple of mama's boys."

"You mean like they never leave home and hang out with me until I die?  Do you think we could actually facilitate that happening?  Like who they'll be is really all nurture and has nothing to do with nature?  Do you really think that?"

These are the conversations I am now having with myself, in my head, as Tuesday quickly turns to Wednesday.