Andra Watkins has been encouraging her readers to make a memory. I regret it’s too late for me to make any more memories with my mom. So, instead, I’ll share a few.
- Discussing with two of my aunts my bosom size and how lucky I was to be well endowed. I was TEN.
- Inviting my boyfriend (if you can even call him that) in the 7th grade and his mother over for tea. So embarrassing. I don’t even think I spoke more than 20 words to him the whole time we went steady, let alone stare lovingly into his eyes. Sorry, Bas.
- Treating me like a princess for a day. I think I was 7 or 8 years old. Even though I was the only child living at home by that time, my mom still made a big deal out of it.
- Insisting that I take private Portuguese lessons over Christmas break even though we had just moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and my language teacher had decided not to give me a grade as I was so new.
- Not insisting that I continue to take ballet or guitar lessons. Thank you, mom.
- Buying me a paperback copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care two months after Christian was born. Perhaps it was her way of telling me I wasn’t doing it right. But, at least, she did not judge.
- Walking through the snow and ice in Pittsburgh during the winter of 1979 to catch the bus out to Northway Elementary School. It was miserable, but we did it every school day for several months. We had just moved back to the States after 5 years in Western Australia. And, my new classmates were weird.
- Walking everywhere. All of the time. Mom loved to walk fast.
- Making and eating pie. Mom used to bake them when I was little, lemon meringue in particular. But, in later years, she was always on the hunt for a competent, made-from-scratch piece of pie.
Writing of these few memories reminds me how my mom taught me to be open minded, to embrace different cultures and experiences, and to love and be loyal to my family. I only hope I can provide my son with half of the memories mom left me.
Who Art Thou?
Don’t judge me. Recently, upon checking in for my I-hate-this-with-a-vengeance annual OB/GYN visit, the receptionist asked me what my religious preference is. I found this puzzling. Why does it matter? Does this have to do with the Affordable Care Act? After a brief pause, I answered, “Agnostic.” Plain and simple.
In his August 30, 2014, column, Frank Bruni expressed my sentiments exactly. In it, he discusses Sam Harris’s new book, “Waking Up.” Harris is a well-known atheist. What caught my eye and nailed it for me was what Bruni said about religion in America today:
I’m not casting a vote for godlessness at large or in my own spiritual life, which is muddled with unanswered and unanswerable questions. I’m advocating unfettered discussion, ample room for doubt and a respect for science commensurate with the fealty to any supposedly divine word. We hear the highest-ranking politicians mention God at every turn and with little or no fear of negative repercussion. When’s the last time you heard one of them wrestle publicly with agnosticism?
I come from a religious mixed bag. In my family history, there are hell fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist traditions. I was baptized a Presbyterian, attended several different Protestant churches in Pinjarra, Western Australia, and received my first Communion in an Anglican church in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As empty-nesters, seeking fulfillment elsewhere, my parents converted to Catholicism.
In 2012, the Pew Research Center released a study, ‘Nones’ on the Rise. According to Pew, one-fifth of American adults have no religious affiliation, a trend that has for years been on the rise. Whether this is a positive trend or not is up for debate. But, to avoid assumptions and allow for openminded and unprejudiced (dare I say fair and balanced?) discussion is unequivocally important.
I respect one’s freedom to worship and think one religion is no better, no more righteous than the other. God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Ganesh…they’re all the same in my eyes. Selecting who or what to worship is a very personal decision.
A Time Out
Before I saw this article in The New York Times, I had been considering a self-imposed time out from social media. Then yesterday, I maxed out. I took a step back and realized how obsessed I am with keeping up with you all and everything that’s it. I do not want to miss a beat. You all are so interesting.
But, as Brazilians say, “Chega!” “Enough!”
With you as my witness, I hereby vow to take a thirteen-day break from all online things social beginning today. Almost TWO weeks. No checking in, no posting photos, no liking what you’re up to, no tweeting, nada.
It will give you a break, too.
And, no, there’s no deep reason, no one is forcing me, I’m not trying to set a good example. I just want to.
See you in two weeks.
Dog is His Co-Pilot
This weekend, Christian and Jasmine learned a new trick. She is now his co-pilot.
He had wanted badly to let her run along beside him while he pedaled. So be it, I said. And, they did. It’s something. Jasmine actually pays attention to his every move, as if to say, “See? I told you I could do it!”
Kona, on the other hand, is quite perplexed. “Stay within our sight!” I yell as they ride and run off. Kona tugs on the leash, begins to wimper, moving into full whine. And, then high pitched barks. “Wait,” I scold her, “only Jasmine may do that!” Not to worry, Kona gets her chance, every once and a while. But, poor thing, she doesn’t seem to get the anticipate-the-bike and slow down parts.
Christian is happy. I am happy and predict many adventures with his co-pilot.
I Wish I Were a Poet
I wish I were a poet.
That way, I could bury my emotions behind a piece of art, of prose. Instead of focusing on me, people would focus on the art, trying to interpret it instead of me.
When facing fear, I fall behind a smile, a laugh…”It’s okay, really.” Afraid to expose my feelings, wanting to scream, “DON’T MAKE ME SHARE!”
I wish I were a poet.
Did I Really Just Say That?
To share or not to share. How much as a parent am I really supposed to discuss with and expose to our twelve-year-old son? Ken is better at sharing than I am. He’s not squeamish. He’s matter-of-fact and lays it out for the taking. Which, I think in the long run, is good and healthy.
I’m still working on it. Sometimes, topics come up at the dinner table that make me want to crawl out of my skin and go hide under a blanket. But, that’s okay. Maybe I’m growing up, too. As I reflect, I appreciate that we can discuss taboo subjects as a family in a mature, unemotional, and nonjudgmental way.
Don’t overreact. My mom’s cousin offers this: Don’t appear shell-shocked when your kid tells you something you may not want to hear. Poker face it all the way, baby. Or, at least until you have had time (and, maybe a drink) to consider your options. Older children are guaranteed to clam up the moment they think you don’t get it, or don’t ever want to get it.
Adults want teens to share their private thoughts. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal by Ann Lukits reports that teens who share their secrets are better adjusted.
Perhaps as parents, we can open our minds and share a bit more, too.
Um, where’s Jasmine?
our impromptu small investment in a spanking new 24-hour emergency vet clinic Jasmine’s unfortunate intake of 70 (yes SEVENTY) 200 mg ibuprofen tablets last week and her subsequent three-night stay at the animal hospital, we now keep dibs on her pretty much all of the time. Oh, not familiar with what happened? In short, I found her lying on our bedroom floor, tail wagging, munching on the pills like candy. Yum! So much better than paper towels.
Not to worry, she’s just fine. Thankfully.
But, we have a new habit: Keeping up with Jasmine. Now, the sounds of “Where’s Jasmine?” ring out from downstairs to up. “Is she with you?” “Come Jasmine!” “Jas-mine, where are you?”
Yes, just like when Christian learned to walk and cared to do nothing but explore everywhere, oh that seems-like-it-will-never-end phase when parents eat in shifts, we now require Jasmine to be within view at all times.
So, when you wonder something like When are we ever going to take down that child gate on the stairs? you never know why you didn’t until you need it. Oh, and those childproof lids? They are not Jasmine-proof.
Slipping through my fingers
Christian began middle school yesterday. It was different from any other “first day” we’ve experienced. For all of the others, he was a little boy. The changes from year-to-year were not so extreme.
He began this summer as a fifth grader, still in elementary school, shorter, with curly, blond hair. He had never been to a sleepover camp. He had never once discussed girls in that way.
When I started middle school, I felt awkward in a foreign land, having spent my first five years of school in not quite the Outback. But, Christian was enthusiastically autonomous as he prepped Tuesday night, as he strode off to the bus stop alone Wednesday morning. It means a lot to his parents that Christian had such a great day–we had a great day. Middle school seems to suit him: It’s a bit rough around the edges, there’s more diversity, less rules, old friends, new friends. That’s all I may share. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.
(queue sentimental moment)
As I think of Christian growing up, I often recall this song by my favorite band EVER. Though it is intended for a daughter, it pretty much sums up for me the experience of seeing my son grow up before my eyes, how fleeting time is even though I am right by his side, almost every single day.
(queue needle scratching-across-a-record sound, interrupting said sentimental moment)
Christian would rather I consider a tune on today’s Top 40 list.
(queue blank thought)
Locks of love
As I drove into the cul-de-sac yesterday evening, I noticed our neighbor’s daughter being pushed in a Cub Mobile by a child I did not recognize. As I slowed down, said boy ran up to my car with a huge grin on his face. It was then I realized that he was MY son.
I had been preparing myself for this. I mean, Ken had texted a photo of Christian mid-haircut. Mid-chop. I was still surprised. All through dinner, we kept commenting on how different he looked, how mature he had suddenly become.
Since he was a tot, and his blond ringlets began to sprout, we’ve been reluctant to give into to more than just a trim. We relied upon Christian’s mop of toehead curls to pick him out of a crowd. This is the end of an era. Time to grow up.