Category Archives: motherhood

First crushes and being crushed

1 A girl has a bigtime crush on my 9-year-old son. She is cute, smart, and funny, with a bit of attitude and a bold streak. She has not been subtle about her feelings for him.

She has recited a poem to him, rushes to sit with him on the bus, and talks to their classmates about how cute my boy is. Other times she chases him around the playground and they pretend to hate each other, because, well, they’re third-graders.

I admire her confidence and find the whole thing pretty adorable. I’ve known this girl for a couple of years and her mom for much longer. I like this girl. My son likes her. But he is not ready for this talk about “liking” someone.

“We are in elementary school!” he says emphatically when the subject comes up. “El-e-men-tar-y school.”

I agree with him. I’m glad he can be friends with girls and boys, and I told him no matter how he feels, to always be nice to her. (“Obviously, Mom!”) I don’t want her feelings hurt. Kids aren’t always kind, and boys don’t always express their emotions in the best way. I think my son has a good handle on the situation, and I predict they’ll be friends for a long time.

But I remember how those crushes go. Don’t we all? Even as adults who have survived actual heartbreak and real relationships, we remember those childhood hurts.

The boy I was in love with when I was 9 presented me with a palm branch at church on Palm Sunday and asked me to marry him. I was over the moon. I kept that branch, that token of his undying devotion, until it was brittle and brown. We flirted off and on for a few years, but as childhood romances go, nothing else ever happened and I was crushed when his crush subsided.

(I’m happy to report that we are still friends all these years later and he is happily married to his husband.)

I remember those feelings that you don’t really understand but that you can’t avoid when you’re just a kid. Palm branch boy broke my heart for a minute, and I did the same thing to another boy.

He was a bit of a nerd, super smart with curly hair and rosy cheeks. He always wore turtlenecks and his favorite thing to do was study ancient Egypt. He was intelligent, nice, and made no secret of how much he liked me.

He wrote me notes and complimented me. One year he drew my name for a class holiday gift exchange and I remember him literally squealing with delight. He gave me a perfume and powder set. The powder came in a bright green plastic apple and the perfume in a bottle shaped like a turtle. It was a much nicer present than kids usually exchanged.

Our school took an annual trip to the roller rink, which was a highlight of the year. And there was always the “snowball dance,” when they would dim the lights, turn on the disco ball, and skaters would make their way around the rink holding hands. (I know this would never happen in elementary school today, but it was the ‘70s.)

The boy approached me in front of all my friends and asked me to skate with him. I was interested in this hand-holding idea, but I wasn’t so sure about doing it with him.

I said no.

He looked grief-stricken. It took him a lot of guts to come up and ask me, and I rejected him. My friends giggled as he walked away. I have felt bad about it for decades.

After that, we didn’t talk much, and the next year we went to separate schools. I saw him again when I was a senior in high school when we shared a class together. I said hi, but neither of us initiated any more conversation. I feel bad about that too. It seems like it was up to me.

Who knows if he even remembers me or this slight that haunts me. I have Googled him a few times – he has a distinctive name, so I thought he’d be easy to find somewhere. But I have never located him. I don’t know what became of him and his life, but I imagine he’s successful, and I hope he’s happy.

I’d like to tell him thanks for asking me to skate. Thank you for the gift and the notes. Thanks for thinking I was special. I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.

But you know, we were in elementary school.

(Do you have a story about a childhood crush? I’d love to hear it in the comments. And if you liked this post, feel free to share it.)

 

 

Advertisements

GTA? N-O

I’m back on Ravishly today talking about the challenges of  boys and video games:

No, I will not allow my child to play Grand Theft Auto. Please check it out!

And if you’re not reading Ravishly, you should be. There’s so much great stuff there — a little bit for everyone.

 

He’s 9, and he’s fine. But what about me?

My 9-year-old son walked to school by himself for the first time today.

He goes to a school that’s a 10-minute drive away, not within walking distance, but he can catch the bus at the school in our neighborhood just a few blocks away from our house. His school has a late start, and he usually wants to have extra time at home in the morning and prefers I drive him to school. My flexible schedule allows me to do that.

Today, he wanted to walk to the bus. Alone. For the first time.

While he typically dawdles through the morning routine, he practically raced through it this morning, preparing himself for the day. I said I would walk him down to the corner. You can literally see the school three blocks away from that corner. He declined my offer.

“I am fine!” he insisted.

I watched him walk away, his heavy backpack not slowing his steps at all.

I know it’s the first of many times I will watch him leave. Soon he’ll be asking for the car keys, and after that, going to college. Realistically, I know there are many years before that, but it also feels like yesterday I was carrying him on my hip. It goes so fast, we all say. Because it simply does. I remember last week — or 10 years ago — when my stepdaughter decided she wanted to ride her scooter to school at about the same age. Now she’s expecting her own child.

As soon as he turned the corner, I got in the car, thinking about driving to meet him. I sat there for a minute. “I am not a helicopter parent,” I told myself. “Don’t I always say my goal is to raise independent, self-sufficient children? He’s a smart, strong kid. He is 9. He is fine.”

But I still started the ignition. I drove the opposite way, and reached the back of the school, where I saw him proudly walking toward the waiting area for the bus. See, I just wanted to congratulate him, to tell him I am proud of how he’s growing up. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the same reason I followed my stepdaughter that day on her scooter.

I gave him a high-five and a big hug, told him to have a great day, and walked back toward the car.

“Sometimes it’s hard to leave them,” another mom kindly said to me.

It sure is.

 

(If you liked this post, please share it with your friends.)

 

 

 

How do you stick to your guns when it comes to video games?

I have been arguing with my 9-year-old son for weeks about why we won’t let him play Grand Theft Auto. I kind of blame myself.

He was at an older friend’s birthday party where they were playing games he knows we don’t allow. He texted me from his iPod: “I feel left out because everyone is playing video games I can’t play.”

I was proud of him for being honest and following the rules, so I told him it was OK to try them out with his friends. I didn’t expect him to like them so much. Up until now, our biggest challenge had been pulling him away from Minecraft, which is pretty universally praised as an educational game that encourages creativity and critical thinking.

He had tucked his Christmas cash into his homemade duct-tape wallet, and my son was determined to spend that money on GTA, a game that “EVERYONE plays.”

He kept telling me he doesn’t want to do all that bad crime stuff, he just likes to drive around and play tennis and stuff. Are there really scenic byways and recreational facilities in this violent virtual world that I heard mostly consists of bank robbers, guns, hookers, and drug dealers?

For weeks, he’s been alternating between sweet talking us and screaming at us about why he should get GTA.  He has negotiated and promised, and we have threatened and researched. I don’t like video games and detest guns, so these allure of these games is lost on me. But I read the online reviews from other parents. I watched YouTube videos. I talked to friends who do and don’t let their kids play GTA. And I came to my conclusion: No way.

“Mom, it is not as bad as you think,” my son insisted. “And I know right from wrong. It’s not like I’m going to go out and rob a bank or steal a car.”

He has written too many persuasive essays in third grade, this kid.

My son, like seemingly all boys, likes video games. But he also swims, plays basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis. He’s active. He’s a good student. He likes art and music and jumping on the trampoline. Like all moms, I wonder how much screen time is too much? How damaging are these games to his precious psyche?

Finally, he wore me down. My husband and I took him to Game Stop to ask about the game. The first salesclerk warned me about the mature themes. I asked him about this “just driving around” thing, and he said you really can’t do that for very long.

Then the clerk told us if you buy a used game, you can return it in seven days if you don’t like it or decide it’s a mistake. That sounded like a reasonable option. We went over the ground rules, and our son said he understood that if Dad or I objected to it in any way, we would take the game back with no backtalk. Against my better judgment, I told him he could try it out under close supervision.

Beaming, my son walked up to counter with the GTA case in his hand. A different clerk was there and looked at me with raised eyebrows. “You sure this is OK?” he asked.

The conversation began again with this employee. He told us it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the violence, sex, and profanity.  “It’s really the worst game out there for kids,” he said, confirming my fears.

This conscientious clerk directed us toward another game we’d never heard of that he said was just as fun, without the inappropriate language and crime sprees. He backed us up, without knowing how much we needed it.

These guys are the experts, I told our son. They are super gamers. It’s their job to sell games, and they are encouraging us NOT to buy this one.

I reneged on our agreement. I knew I was in trouble. We’re all about keeping our word in our family, and our kiddo was not happy that I broke mine. But I also knew I was right.

Thank you, Game Stop guys for making this mom stick to her guns.

My mom’s last words

My mom was a woman of words.

She taught us the words to “Jesus Loves Me,” and she told me what menstruation meant.

When I was 8, she gave me a blank book, with an inscription: “To Katherine, for your poems.”

A former English teacher, my mom taught me the meaning of “colloquial” when I was reading my favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I used it in an essay on the book for my 9th grade Honors English class. I got an A.

Her final words, uttered 13 years ago today, were perhaps her most important. I feel fortunate my Dad and I were in the hospital room to hear them. Not all families have this opportunity, I know. I wish my sister and brother had been there too.

She had been quiet and unresponsive for several hours when we noticed her struggling to speak.

“I want to say that I love you,” she told my Dad, in a stronger voice than we expected.  “And I love the kids.”

Thank you, Mom, for the words.

 

 

Searching for a needle in a junk drawer

My son pulled a button off the (brand new) shirt he planned to wear to Christmas Eve services and dinner.

No problem. I’ll just head to my organized sewing room and… Everyone who knows me is laughing out loud right now. No such room has ever existed.

But I know I have teensy tiny travel sewing kit here somewhere purchased precisely for moments like this. Medicine cabinet? Nope. Desk? No luck. Aha! The junk drawer(s).

I scrounged through every drawer – you know, through batteries and paperclips and toothpicks and box tops labels I really will bring to school some day and sticky lip gloss with no lids and Christmas ornament hangers – THERE they are! I did find an unused iTunes gift card, some melted Easter candy, and a 9-year-old pacifier, but alas, no needle and thread. (Note to self: Add organizing drawers to resolution list.)

How is possible I can’t find the supplies in my entire house to sew on one button? I had not planned on going to the store on Christmas Eve, but we have time, and H has his heart set on that purple shirt and black bow tie a family friend gave him. I’ll just run out quickly.

Where do you even buy thread besides the fabric store? Because I’m seriously not going there.

I’m delighted to discover your neighborhood grocery store has a small sewing section for people like me. (I am not completely alone in my uselessness!) White thread…check. Needle…who knew there were so many sizes? I’ll take the assortment.

Home again with the provisions, I tackle the project. Of course, these buttons have four holes and are all attached in crisscross pattern, so see I have to replicate that design. Ow, these needles are sharp! How are you supposed to tell where those four little button holes are?

I know my strengths. I know better my weaknesses. My aunt turns out beautiful blankets for every person in our family at Christmas. I have handmade napkins for every occasion, and all the kids have special pillow cases. My mother-in-law made baby clothes for her kids and grandkids.

Me? I took a sewing class my senior year of high school because I needed an easy first period class my last semester. I made a sweatshirt, a skirt, and a blouse. It took me four months.

So I am not one of those wives and mothers who bakes cakes from scratch or hand stitches Halloween costumes. Sometimes I wish I was, but usually I think my family is generally happy with my other cool talents. Right now, what I am is a mom determined to see my handsome son in that shirt. I worked laboriously and managed to mend the shirt without getting any droplets of blood on it. I cannot believe how proud of myself I am.

“You did it, Mom!” my son exclaims.

Yes, honey. Now let’s just carefully slide it over your head without undoing this particular button. There. Perfect. Well, perfect-ish. Whew.

Just a few more gifts to wrap, a stocking to fill, and I’ll have this Christmas all sewn up.

 

Appreciating the beauty of individuality

The  T-shirts were identical.

A sea of kids wore the shirts, which declared them members of the DREAM team at their school’s fun run. They made their way around a track lined with orange cones as they sang along to Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. In these 30 minute blocks with their classes, they were all in it together, running to raise money for playground equipment and field trips and musical instruments.

But those shirts were all they had in common.

There were the superstars who ran lap after lap with ease and got lots of high-fives. Some struggled to keep up (the chubby kid in me related to them) and received lots of encouragement. A few stumbled, and their classmates reached out to help them up. Two kids from a special needs class tightly held hands the whole time, guiding each other through rowdy mob. One boy happily  jogged along in heavy winter boots.

Sadly but surely, some of them will have an easier time in life than others. I wondered how many of them have people in their lives with the resources to make pledges so they could win highly coveted prizes like a screaming flying chicken and how many of their families don’t have a credit card, checking account, or address. How many excel in school and how many of them can’t read?

All these kids, from diverse background and experiences, are learning who they are, what they are good at, where they fit in, how to stand apart.

They whizzed by me, stopping briefly as I marked each lap on the backs of their shirts,  and I delighted in their exuberance and individuality. I gained even greater appreciation for the teachers who work with these distinct personalities all day. (And I realized some of these boys need deodorant at a much younger age.) I wished for each of them, no matter their circumstances, the same opportunities and a bright future.

The other parents and I predictably cooed, “They are sooo cute!” But oh, these extraordinary human beings are so much more.

They are athletic and awkward
Witty and wise
Shy and shameless
Friendly and ferocious
Caring and crazy
Lovely and lonely
Outgoing and optimistic
Tender and tortured
Clumsy and cool
Polite and precocious
Determined and dramatic
Gregarious and gentle
Fearless and fragile
Wounded and wry
Respectful and ridiculous
Silly and sweet
Charming and courageous
Intelligent and indignant
Angry and adorable.

Each of them beautiful. All of them worthy.

Dream on, kids. The world awaits your unique gifts.