Sunday, May 29, 2016

baby hair

I think it is the baby hair that gets me the most.

When they are born, it is oh so fine. It is small and delicate, just like the baby himself. Parents spend hours bathing their baby and lathering tearless shampoo into that hair. Then we brush it, either into a mohawk or a combover and take pictures and ooh and aww over how adorable they are with their hair combed. I remember taking many a hit of that baby hair, scented with Johnson's shampoo.

I watched my babies grow by watching the tops of their heads.

Because as baby's grow, their hair turns coarser, thicker. Their hair toughens up as they do. It adapts to its surroundings. Too long in the sun and the hair lightens. Too long in a hat and it flattens. Soon you can gel it, mold it. You are giving endless haircuts. I swear I cut hair every three weeks. It grows quickly along with those little babes. Soon there is no more fuzzy, fine hair and your once-baby heads are covered in regular boy hair. The kind of hair that gets covered in mud, that gets sweaty. Washing their hair is no longer a careful task. Soon, I'm just making sure to spray the hose in that direction every now and again.

I have a theory that the more hair a kid has, the more vivid his personality is. Both my kids were born with full heads of dark hair, and they both are very extreme. Brandon with his emotions, Holden with his reactions. They both love to dance and are full of energy and life. Neither one is passive in any direction. They go hard in their own ways. Every time I've seen a bald baby, it has, in contrast, seemed compliant. Almost like part of a background, rather than the starring act.

Tonight while I rocked Holden to sleep, I just kept fingering his hair. I get now why people used to save a lock of baby hair. It's because hair is a metaphor for growing people. I thought of Holden's fine and delicate hair while I touched his coarse and unruly new hair. He has shed is baby skin and is ready for what comes next. And just like with their haircuts, I find I am lagging behind, not ready to catch up to them quite yet.

I might have to take up huffing Johnson's baby shampoo.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

this time

Just last night, I tweeted:

I'm going to sell all my corporate clothes to make sure I never consider becoming someone's lackey ever again.

And then, I shit you not: this morning--not even 12 hours later--a coffee shop customer of mine told me about this job opening at her company that she thought I should apply for. And just like that, I thought about it. 

But then, I dismissed it, shaming myself for even considering it. I have been there, done that and I hated it, I reminded myself. I have little boys at home who I want to spend their final before-school years with. And I have a dream of becoming a writer, or at least a Creative Writing professor. 

It is so easy to get sucked into the vacuum of conformity. Of being a responsible adult with a steady paycheck who looks forward to the weekend, when you can once again pursue your passion. It's easy to become what people expect of you rather than who you want to become.

But this time, I'm doing it right. 

I am one of the few people who gets a second shot at adulthood. I got my undergraduate degree and did lackey work. I had steady paychecks and did a good job at work I loathed. But now, I am going to get my graduate degree and do what I really want to do.

I am a dreamer. But this time, I will also be a doer. And that "doing" does not include org charts. I am done being sidetracked. This time, I am laser-focused.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

crop tops, spanx, and panic button necklaces

I used to think the world existed for the young. And certainly, there is plenty for the young, plenty that us older people are slightly jealous of. But now, as I age, I am seeing that the world does not revolve around the young. The young people only think it revolves around them. The rest of us coexist in this world with them, something for everyone. There are jokes in kids' movies just for us adults, almost like a subtle reminder that we matter too. Because we've all got our things.

The young people have:
Snapchat, miniskirts, crop tops. Wet and Wild makeup. Bikinis and whipped cream vodka. Bikinis made out of whipped cream. Vodka. YouTube channels. Perky tits. Elastic skin. Tanning without worrying. Eating french fries without getting fat. Hundreds of texts a day, but zero emails that aren't spam.

Us in middle age have:
Spanx, Pinterest, coupons. I think my generation will be the last one that ever gets really excited about office supplies. We have our VH1 list shows that remind us of when we were young. Buzzfeed is all us. We drive cars that are neither sexy nor ugly, but unabashedly practical. We remember planning dates with phone calls rather than a right swipe. We are a bit more personable than our younger counterparts, although admittedly not as technology-savvy. We talk about "the good ol' days" as if we know anything about that, thinking that the 80s were the beginning of American history.

And the elderly have theirs:
Tea, buttons you push on strings in case of a fall. Spending time at donut and coffee shops without asking about the wifi password. Money stashed away in retirement accounts. Memories of some really great music, movies, and books that most grandchildren will never know of. They have worked jobs without computers and used their hands for something other than texting and driving. Pictures were sacred and scarce. Working hard was admirable. And they actually do know a thing or two about some good ol' days - before screens ruled our world.

In youth we learn; in age we understand. ~Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

As I grow older, I learn that the world never really did revolve around me, I just thought it did. My perspective shifts as I see the same things in different lights. I have learned to appreciate the history that shaped the world for me as just as I am learning to adapt to the inventions that come from the generations after me.

The world does not belong to me or to the Millennials or to my children's generation. It belongs to us each, whichever place we find ourselves in it. There is a niche for each of us. Or for us non-conformists, we can always carve our own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

preschool

Yesterday, we went and visited a preschool for Brandon. "The Berenstain Bears' 'Go To School'" kept running through my mind. Brandon took it all in: the lego table, the playdoh, the blocks, the artwork. He found a book and sat down in their reading chair as if he belonged there.

I've been asking him if he wanted to go to school for awhile now and his answer had always been, "no mom, I want to stay home with you and Holdy."
Until recently.
Now, he says, "when I'm a little bit bigger, I can go to school, right mom?" And when I ask what he would possibly want to do at school, away from mom and Holdy, he replies, "play with other kids and learn my letters," with complete conviction.

I wasn't against preschool before, but I didn't see any necessity for it. I am a stay-at-home mom so why send him away for a couple hours a week and pay someone to watch him when I am completely capable myself? But I learned yesterday that preschool is to prepare us for school; the parents just as much as the children. If we can let our kids go for a couple hours a day, a couple days a week, then maybe we can fathom a whole day at school.

We loosen our leashes a little at a time as these tiny babes of ours turn into boys, then teenagers, then adults. One day they bite off their collars and run wild and free, only to return when we call them back for dinner.

I swallowed my tears as I watched my babe seamlessly fold into the preschool life for an hour. I imagined him seamlessly learning to drive, to get a job, to buy his own house. He will handle it all with his usual aplomb, and I will handle it all with my usual exaggerated emotional breakdowns.

Then this morning, Brandon recited his letters perfectly and asked me if he could go to school today.
"Not today, but in September," I replied.
He looked at me for just a moment, then resumed reading his alphabet book.
It was as if he was checking on me, making sure I am ready to let him grow up.
So I didn't cry in front of him. Let him think he got his aplomb from me, until he learns otherwise.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

opposites

I'm not sure that Steve and I could be any more different in our parenting styles. But really, we are pretty opposite in personality, so that could have been predicted. I am high-strung and impatient, he is reasonable and level-headed. He is a planner, I am spontaneous. He is a worrier, I am a reactor.

Last week, Holden hit Brandon on the head with a toy train. I mean, Holden walked up to Brandon, his teeth bared, and smacked Brandon as hard as he could. It was cold-blooded.  Here's how we reacted. I screamed (of course), signaling Steve to come running in. I cuddled Brandon while Steve scolded Holden. I kissed Brandon on the head, then took Holden into his room to put him to bed. Steve stayed and looked after Brandon.

"Brandon's head is bleeding!" Steve (I don't want to say "squealed" here, but I don't know what else to say) said in a panic.
"Did you see that?" he followed up.
"No," I replied. "I kissed him on the head but I didn't see anything."
(I didn't add that I also didn't look for anything).
"Should we call the doctor?"
I put Holden in his crib and followed Steve's voice. I checked out the blood (it was a drop) which Steve was blotting furiously with a Kleenex.
"The cut isn't big enough for stitches, there's nothing they will do," I responded. "Plus, the doctor's office is closed."
"Should we take him to the hospital then?" Steve persisted.
"Do you know how much that will cost? And again, they won't do anything," I responded.
I left the scene, returned to Holden.
Steve continued to panic, but silently.

The next day I took the boys to Steve's parents house. Steve's mom asked me about Brandon's head, because Steve had texted her about it. I told her it was fine and we both chuckled about how Steve overreacted.

But then a few days later, I completely lost my cool when the boys wouldn't help me clean up. Steve reminded me they are two and four and I tried to bookmark that for future references when I freak out, because it will happen sooner than later.

"We couldn't be more different as parents," he said.
I agreed. It's true. But maybe that's not all too terrible. Our boys will grow into the men they are going to become despite it.
They might be the youngest boys to ever climb trees at Fontanelle Forest because I let them try when Steve would rather keep them right by his side.
They might take care of Steve and I in our old age with unparalleled care and attention because that is what Steve provided them when they needed it.

We might not be on the same page all the time, but at least Steve and I are in the same book. We are both taking care of our kids in the way that we think is best. We are both making sure they know they are loved and cared for, in our own variations. And isn't variety the spice of life, anyway? Then my boys are like a nice and spicy homemade chili.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

sticking it out

Training for a marathon is teaching me endurance and perseverance. It's not just anybody who can set out and run for hours. It takes some real cojones. I only set out on out-and-back runs, rather than recurring loops. On loops, it's easy to quit prematurely. But on the out-and-backs, once you get out, you have to run back.

I have learned it is more mental than physical, running for what seems like forever. Don't get me wrong, it's very physical too. Trust me, I've got a blister on my big toe screaming, "it's physical!" But fighting the excuses you give yourself to turn around early and do less than you planned is the real achievement.

While reflecting on my long run today, I thought about how I'm much more of a sprinter than a distance runner. People think of me as motivated, and I definitely am, but only in short-term goals. I kill it at project work, but give me something that takes more than a few months and I get bored or tired and peter out. Perhaps this is why I've never finished a book, even though I've been writing since I was twelve.  

People who last decades at the same job baffle me. I have never even held a job for three years. I am quick to start something, and quick to quit. I quit running track in high school, I quit piano lessons, I switched colleges after three semesters, I've held a dozen restaurant jobs. When anything gets overwhelming or daunting, I leave and move onto something else.

So every week that I run even farther than the last week without quitting early, I know I am taking baby steps towards perseverance. I am learning to stick with things, even when the going gets hard. I guess I have been learning that through marriage and parenting, so maybe it's really taken me ten years to learn this about myself, to start changing this bad habit of mine.

Running a marathon is impressive not because of one morning spent running during the actual event, but because of the commitment it signifies. And when I think of commitment, I think of the best thing in my life, the one thing that has stuck for a decade: my relationship with Steve. I realize, good things come to those who persevere. I kept reminding myself that as I ran today, over and over, for sixteen miles.