Chapter 2: Sometimes Kids Suck. A lot.

ch 2

The idea for this book was derived a super long time ago, during one Christmas break when my then-teenaged daughter stopped talking to me (for a mountain of reasons that will be peppered throughout this momoir but really, it happened so often, does it matter?).  She was grounded for the entire vacation and I was committed to making sure she didn’t bolt or sneak out so I stayed home, too, (you will soon see why I’ve crowned myself the Mother of all Martyrs).  Misery may love company but cutting off a teenager from her friends is really quite satisfying.   I had a lot of free time so I just started taking notes.  Lots and lots of notes.  (A side note:  I take notes all the time because again, I am of a certain age and can only remember song lyrics of my youth.  Remember when I wrote on cocktail napkins to remember details of my hilarious cruise?)  Digressing again.  Anyway …

Ironically, she’d been pestering me to write a book for a long time.  Of course at that time her literary requirements consisted of summer love and vampires so I’m hoping she’s not too alarmed at what emerged from her urging.  Had she known my first attempt would be (somewhat – a quarter?) at her expense she might’ve toned down her behavior a notch, but hey, a book’s a book.

The last of my four children is now a teenager so I’d like to think I’ve gotten a decent handle on this adolescent thing.  You know, that out-of-the-blue explosion of angst and rage and emotion that’s been known to destroy a family dinner with a single grunt.  One thing I’ve found is it’s significantly easier dealing with irrational adolescent behavior when someone you know has already experienced it.  For example, one time upon hearing my daughter threaten to turn me into the authorities I (naturally) called her bluff, scoffing, “Go ahead – make the call.”

In retelling that story (who wouldn’t?) I discovered that my friend Jerry had a way better response when it happened to him.  He shouted back to his insolent teen, “Go ahead – make the call – and tell them to bring a body bag because they’ll be making a pick up!”

See?  Older and wiser plus additional experience equals a far funnier story.  I love Jerry.

It pays to surround yourself with people who have weathered earlier storms because someone else’s story will always top yours and you might realize we all come out alive.

Like I said, I’m no expert but I am somewhat experienced.  I know I’ve got more melodrama headed my way but for the record I’ve already survived:

A kid sneaking out of the house after I’d gone to bed.  Repeatedly.

A kid coming home high.

A kid lying, stealing, drinking, plagiarizing, and being an all-around dickhead.

A kid packing up a duffle bag and moving out six days before his high school graduation.

And about a gazillion other dizzying incidents that – God willing — may seem uproarious many, many years down the road.

That’s really my only goal here:  to one day find each excruciating and hellish kid antic humorous in some small way.  I think parenting is easier when you believe it might.

Haha, remember that year you got so angry you threw all your Christmas presents in the garbage?

                Remember when you fried your laptop by spilling nail polish remover?

                Hey, wasn’t that hilarious when you left all those wet towels on the floor and they permanently warped your floorboards?

                 Ohmygod how funny was that when you lost two cell phones in two months?

 

For sure, those are some things that were absolutely UNfunny when they were happening in real time.  But man, oh man, I think we all need to believe they will be one day.  I’m a big believer in camaraderie and an even bigger advocate in the healing power of laughter.  I think the world’s a prettier place with daily laughs and nightcaps, and Tylenol PM and a sound machine (oh wait, nevermind, that’s my bedtime list)  so I try to look on the brighter side of say, wanting to punch your kid in the face, and try to look for that clichéd light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s always best if that light isn’t an oncoming freight-train of a kid’s fury but deep breathing helps.  Sometimes.

Let’s be real:  kids suck a lot of the time.   They really do.  They test your inner core and oftentimes leave you questioning where you went wrong.  They make you wonder how their once-adoring eyes could ever hold such genuine resentment of you.   They continuously criticize you, and complain about you, and keep so much of their real selves hidden that you’re convinced they were swapped in the hospital. But we stick to the plan because at some moment in a lifetime a hundred years ago we, too, loathed our lame parents the exact same way.  I think deep down we all know that one day this moment in time will be amusing and our Good Kid is going to return and we might actually like each other again.  It’ll happen.  Right?

I’m here to attest that yes, it will.

Hopefully your good days outnumber your sucky ones because – especially if your children are still small — there will definitely be some doozies to come.  Just remember that despite their declarations to the contrary, we are all good moms doing our best.  If you’re like me, you’re making some major-ass mistakes (letting my 11-year-old be the Beer Pong ringer at his cousin’s grad party?  Perhaps not my finest mom moment) but at least we’re learning as we go.

My missteps have continued as my kids have gotten older.

I scoop wet towels off various floors and toss them in the dryer every day without washing them.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I also cut off my kids’ cell service when I couldn’t withstand one more minute of backtalk … and then forgot to pick them up because I hadn’t heard from them.

There was also a time (only once, I swear) when I texted my kid’s coach (perhaps … not … entirely … sober) to squawk about his playing time (a side note: if you’re going to try this, which I wholeheartedly do NOT recommend, first make sure the coach is one helluva good guy).  Nevertheless, not an entirely proud moment.  AT ALL.

Some of my best Mom Moments are a little unorthodox.  For instance, I keep my cell phone charger in my underwear drawer and make sure my kids know it.  Why?  Because should it go missing – like all chargers do – I want my kids – especially my boys – to know they’d be fishing around through my panties in order to find it.

I wouldn’t order my daughter’s prom dress because she didn’t clean her room.  And that was our deal – that it had to be Mom Clean first. But it never was.   So guess what?   She borrowed a dress and – gasp! – lived.  If you can imagine, that scene was absolutely apocalyptic at the time (upcoming chapter entitled Got Girls?  Get Wine) and (irony) I’m sure she doesn’t even remember that story now.

I’ve even changed the locks to make a rebellious teen know for damn sure that I was completely, stick-a-fork-in-me done with his nonsense.

I’m amassing a pretty extensive list but I don’t let it get me down.  It pays to remember:  The worst thing you will ever experience has always been weathered by someone else.  I try to focus on the fleeting blips of positive.  I’m pretty sure that for every really (really) lousy thing I do (or, in the case of changing sheets, don’t do), I make up for it in other ways.  For instance, even though they tower over me now, I still kiss my kids a lot.  And I tell them I love them all the time.  I always have.  The words are spoken so often that I now possess three sons who actually say it back to me even without a money transaction:  in front of their friends, over their shoulders as they’re scooting out the door, and (yes, sir) sometimes even when they’re mad at me.  And teens are mad a lot.  One time, when it dawned on me that my moody and excessively ornery ‘tween was attempting to become an Ornery ‘Tween Bedroom Mole, I demanded impromptu hug practices and made him stand locked in an embrace with me until he smiled.  We’re moms.  We’ll do whatever it takes.

My home is pretty nasty at times (here comes my pat on the back from nobody-cares-about-your-undone-chores-Oprah;  you know, spoken as if she’s one of us and might have some dust in her life) but I know I’m a pretty good mom regardless.  There are still moments when I watch my kids from afar.  Not in the “Get back here, a stranger’s going to steal you!” kind of way, but in a fascinated, still-can’t-believe-they’re-mine way.

Nowadays I don’t have to write much down since I can immediately promote their perfections and pitfalls in my blogs and the super honest billboard of Facebook (insert many laughing emojis) but one thing’s for sure:  these babies grow up when we’re not even looking and life is too damn short to dwell on dirty sheets and sour demeanors.

Yes, oh yes, kids do suck.  But when they’re in the back seat of a (cough, extremely cool) minivan giggling over the stupidest of stupid bad-gas jokes, they suck a little less and make you giggle, too.  And every now and then when you’re ready to lock yourself in the bathroom for just five more minutes before your head explodes off your neck, they’ll do something unexpected and delightful to make you unlock that door.

When they were little, when they’d hear Barry White come out of the speakers they’d seek me out (“Mom, it’s your soooooooong!”) and spontaneously dance with me in our kitchen.     I loved those moments.  It’s all about the moments.

 

My kids may roll their eyes at my I-pod but hell to the yeah, they know all my songs.

Now that they’re older and (* makes the sign of the cross) out in public without me, every now and then I’ll get the mother of all compliments (no pun intended) when I least expect it, sometimes from complete strangers:

You’ve got great kids.

I’m thinking a terrible mom would never be able to pull that off.

So I’ll be keeping my phone charge in my underwear drawer, thankyouverymuch, because who knows, maybe I just may be onto something here.

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Missed Chapter 1?   Click here:   https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

A Collection of Eyerolls Chapter 1: Yes, Billy Joel, We Will All Go Down Together

book

 

Introduction

Life comes with a certain expectation of bad things.  As a mom, I fully expected exhaustion and weight gain and crumbs – ridiculous amounts of crumbs, everywhere (I underestimated here).  As a middle aged woman I begrudgingly expected divorce (of friends), defiance (of teens) and death (of parents).  There’s not a whole lotta surprise there when it comes to the circle of life.

What I didn’t expect were the explosions of unfairness that are both unanticipated and paralyzing.  The numbing cancer diagnosis of friends (worse, younger friends).  The out-of-nowhere brain bleed that grips a group of friends to its core.   The unimaginable loss of child.

If I can be blunt, this past year saw a whole lotta f**kkked up sh*ttt happen around me.  In addition to providing solid proof that love and friendship keeps us all afloat —  it also provided a resounding wake-up a call with a simple, shrill message:  Now.

Love now.  Enjoy now.  Embrace now. Do now.

So I am.

I am doing.

Now.

I’ve talked about writing a book since forever and I’m not waiting anymore to try to publish it.  I’m publishing it right here, right now, one chapter at a time (just like Kendrick Lamar and Carrie Underwood drop tracks.  I think I can be cool like that).  Maybe if enough people enjoy it, it’ll catch on like the Faberge commercial.  Maybe it’ll end up somewhere, someday.  Maybe my gal Tina Fey will send me a tweet.

And maybe nothing will happen.  At the very least, I will show my kids that I did it before it was too late.

Because life is too short to wait.

I haven’t chosen a title yet so feel free to pick your favorite:

 

A Momoir:  Parenting Essays to Put a Tear in Your Eye (or a Drink in your Hand)

I Love Parenting (and Other Lies…)

Kid: I Hate My Mom (Me: OMG, I Did, Too!)

 

 

And away we go!

 

*     *     *     *     *

Chapter 1

Yes, Billy Joel, We Will All Go Down Together

 

My obvious disclaimer:  I am not a parenting expert.  None whatsoever, of any kind.  I never will be.  I gave birth.  Four times.  That – along with a blog that perpetually pokes fun at those birthing miracles – taps my credentials.  It may not be much but it’s far and wide a way better reason to heed my warnings over say, Oprah’s.  I’m actually fairly particular about my own experts.  For instance, I don’t want my fitness instructor or nutritionist to have a muffin top or bat-wings (I don’t actually have these professionals in my life but I feel very strongly that if I did and was handing money over to someone for vanity purposes they should without question look a LOT better than me).  I also don’t want my hairstylist to have Farrah feathers either, no matter how awesome she looks.  And while I may not go often (maybe a few times in summer to look slimmer instead of exercising) I don’t want the owner of the tanning salon to be Oompa Loompa orange.  So yes, I completely understand having advice standards.  I’m also personally critical of accepting guidance from anyone that can’t one-up me, so I tend to tune out other moms unless they’ve got older kids or – trump! – more kids than me.   Kate Gosselin, no offense taken, you can stop reading this now, I get it (your ex, though, maybe he should?).

But here’s why you might want to keep reading this:

I am shamelessly flawed, and not afraid to show how.

I do more things wrong as a mom than I do right, yet my kids (appear) well-adjusted.

I mercilessly mock stupid parents and – because there’s no shortage of them – it makes for some funny stories.

All of that and  — the bonus – to date, my kids don’t have assigned probation officers gives me some pretty ample street cred.  Quite possibly, this is the support group you never knew you needed, but always wished you had.  I feel when parenting’s concerned, there’s always strength in numbers and when that fails, there’s always, always wine. This book will give you both.  (In the case of the wine, just pour a glass and read; I’ll bet you’ll be able to visualize me joining you.  Really, I’m as good as there.)

Other qualities you might admire:  I’ve never lost a kid at a mall (Disney, yes, but I won’t shoulder that blame alone: there were 14 of us…) but I have been known to lose track of my 10-year-old’s last shower.

and … I suspect that if Children’s Services ever caught wind of the actual number of times my kids’ sheets are changed, well there may be some action taken.

and … I confess I have signed homework sheets that I never really checked.  I’ve also feigned sleep when I heard a screaming child in the middle of the night just to allow my husband the experience of flying out of bed like a rocket to deal with it.

and … I’ve allowed electronics to entertain my brood for hours at a time, just to talk on the phone a little longer or clean my house or finish my Netflix binge.

and … I’ve been known to throw my kids out of the house on a beautiful day and lock the door behind them.  True story:  none died of dehydration or were snatched by a dingo.

and … when my kids peed their beds I’d simply change their jammies and flip them to the other end. (I used to know a mom who’d go mental whenever this happened.  She’d rip her toddler out of bed – no matter the time – and throw her in a bath, frantically changing the sheets and carrying on like a lunatic.   What a psycho.  Obviously we weren’t friends for long.)

and … I will admit without shame that – until they were old enough to realize – I skipped pages of bedtime stories.

and …  I have not always enforced regular teeth brushing with my toddlers because, I’d reason, they’re just going to fall out anyway.

and … I have driven past the library only to hear a tiny voice in the back say in wonder, “Hey, I remember this place, I think I was there once…”

And that’s just the little kid stuff.  Wait until you get a load of all the teenage nonsense I’ve already dealt with (because really, have we even truly parented until we’ve taken a bedroom door off its hinges?)   You’ll quickly see I am far from perfect.  My house is always dusty and my inability to remember details makes it impossible for me to recall the name of the last antibiotic any of my kids were prescribed.  A profound failure at keeping baby books, I do try to write down the wonderful, embarrassing and quite ordinary things that happen in our daily lives.  When I noticed my little guy’s Spongebob underwear clear through his tiny white tee-ball pants, I jotted it down.  It was without question the cutest thing I’d ever seen.  And when my toddler loudly pointed out during an extremely crowded Easter mass that, “Mommy, look, they drink wine like you do at home!” much as I wanted to die, I wrote that down, too.   Apparently I also wrote down that my daughter could get her ears double pierced but I don’t remember that  (because I am quite certain that little minx hit me up while I was cocktailing with friends when THAT request came in).    Still, it’s all good stuff.

I’m actually glad I wrote down a lot because my memory is junk.  There’s something profoundly unsettling that I can recall every word to We Didn’t Start the Fire but I couldn’t tell you where my kid is going after work because he only told me three times an hour ago…  Ugh.  Don’t get me started.  I digress…

I love all my kids.  Fiercely.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t daydreamed about shipping them off to a faraway island.  While kids can make us crazy, teenagers can make us alcoholics.  Hell, they can make us question every certainty we know in life and can cause nervous tics just by entering a room.

So for all the moms who have ever had a child declare in a silent waiting room that they’ve discovered your mustache …

And for all the moms who ever realized – too late — with mortified certainty that the word FART was written in Sharpie on their Thanksgiving tablecloth…

And for all the moms who have ever gotten that 2am phone call from a kid needing to be picked up “… or the police will bring me home …”

 

This book is for you.

Hope you’ll keep coming back.

Cheers.

 

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Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

Kids, I Love You. Now Cut the Crap.

brady bunch

A friend shot me a note the other day which read simply, “Can you please write a blog about boys pissing on the toilet seat?” …   To which I immediately replied …

 

“No, but I can write one about boys pissing into cups and Gatorade bottle and leaving them in their bedrooms … and then hurling them out the window when their mom loses her shit over finding them…”

 

(My friends know:  this is 100% truth and the reason my husband will not drink out of plastic cups anymore.)

 

Honestly.  So many stories still untold.  It’s like the Naked City – only there’s usually actual nakedness (because kids can’t find towels because they’re still wet and scattered on various floors).

 

There’s a reason why all these gems float around my head and never make it to the page.  I’ve found myself in that interesting yet ironic state of Perpetually Pissed and Profoundly Proud Parenting:  when my entire emotional state fluctuates between one extreme and the other.

 

Kids cause that.

 

I don’t know what to write about half the time because by the time I’m done revealing reasons of happiness or reflection I usually want to throat punch someone.

 

If you think about it, it’s a pretty remarkable paradox.  And no matter the ages of my kids, and despite how many times I remind myself that much of what now happens in life is out of my hands, these kids still have complete control over which way that pendulum swings.

 

My 3rd kid just graduated high school and of course, it was the momentous, magnificent whirlwind of ceremony it should have been.  (Disclaimer:  this coming from a mom who has repeatedly deemed graduating high school No Big Deal because really, aren’t you supposed to?)  But the Kid did alright.  Acceptance into a damn good school, a couple of nice scholarships and a bona fide bang-up senior year chock full of awesome memories.  My heart’s been full for seemingly months at a go and I will not lie, it’s been a fine, fine time for us.

 

Welp.  My boast balloon burst as soon as I got the text message at work asking if I’d left him a template for the Thank You cards he was writing following his grad party. A template.  Followed by his query, “How do I address an envelope?”  Good God.   Off to college he goes?

 

To quote a very agitated tween, I just can’t even.

 

Bringing up the adolescence rear in our household, my youngest, too, turned his sophomore year into an impressive array of academic and athletic accolades.  Really, he’s the Mayor.  So adored.  So praised.  But yet astounding that he hasn’t yet choked on the ridiculously short leash we have him on due to all the stupid choices he keeps making.  He seems to keep forgetting he is our fourth child and we have seen this movie.  And we know how it ends.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

To quote another very agitated tween, I’m shaking my head.

 

But wait — the Jeckyll and Hyde of emotions isn’t limited to the confines of my home anymore either, for even those that have flown my coop (some states may refer to them as “adults”) are adept at keeping my angst ablaze.

 

Like … my oldest, off in his first apartment (yay!), carrying a full-time job AND full-time school course load (hooray!), excitedly bragging about booking flights for his first “grown-up vacation” (wow!) …   which he planned … on the very weekend of his sister’s college graduation.  Are you kidding me?

 

Or … my daughter (she of the above reference)  … announcing upon said graduation (pride!) that to begin her first job (congrats!) she would be driving cross country (what?) … to  Utah (ummmmmmm)  … alone (whaaaaaat???) … and …  not to worry .. because everything will be fine

 

(End note:  in the end, she did not.  Due to sheer logistics, not parental pleas. Naturally.)

 

Sigh.  Remember when we thought baby colic and constipation was a thing?  (*slaps forehead)

 

A very wise friend once declared “Little kids, little problems.”

 

These aren’t problems, I know.

 

They’re just slices of life that keep that damn pendulum swinging.

 

And parents already know:   life’s pretty amazing dodging that thing.

 

 

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Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

 

This Is Uh… Not Cutting It. Yet.

Image result for this is us

 

 

I’m not going to be very popular in a minute or so.  I get that.   And I accept that.  But if I’m being completely honest (the whole point of a blog), I have to reveal: my love for This Is Us is waning and dammit, I simply refuse to believe I am alone here.

 

Hold onto those rocks, people, I don’t dislike the story of the Pearsons and I’m not throwing in the towel on them.   I – along with everyone else – was unabashedly hooked by the time the how-is-that-guy-smoking-in-a-hospital scene blew this show into the stratosphere.  It’s still a sweet little show and I think it’s got a nice thread of affection weaving through it and making it a pleasant hour of television. (A bonus:  it’s got Susan Kelechi Watson, whose Beth is single handedly the coolest mom on television.)  But (dramatic pause here, waiting for the haters to assemble) it’s not Parenthood.

 

Alas, I am Team Braverman for life and I really thought this show was going to fill that deep void.  I’m finding it’s not.  So I’m a little bummed because I was counting on it.

 

Parenthood was my hands down reality check.  People screwing up with their kids?  Yep.  People making mistakes with their significant others?  All the time.  Kids behaving badly and seeing consequences for that?  Yessiree.  When Kristina was going through her chemo treatments, it was hard for me to watch and harder for me to breathe, having just gone through it with my mom.  It was steeped in realism and throughout the years, their struggles became our strength:  viewers knew if the Bravermans got through it, we could too.

 

The Pearsons aren’t feeling very real to me yet.  I feel like I’m now watching them with a heavy heart and a side of I don’t care.   Hear me out a minute:

 

Exhibit A:  We already know Jack and Rebecca don’t end well.  Every fight they have now seems like another nail in their 80s-lacquered-coffin.  It’s gotten to be a little dose of dread in every scene they share together.

 

Exhibit B:  William’s impending death.  Finding out in what, episode 2, that a well-liked character is on the way out gives little reason to become very vested in him (although I hear “Bates Motel” is making a go of it.  Creepy fun coming from that network but I digress).  We simply watch each episode wondering, is this the one…..

 

Exhibit C:  Kate.  This may be nit-picking but how does she pay her bills?   I remember her interviewing for and then getting a job for a day or two but then she quit and …. flying to the east coast for the holidays, a couple of weeks as a hospital visitor and now an undisclosed amount of time at a fancy exercise farm?  Whaaaat?  Who can check out of life like that? I don’t want to do online research to find out her back story but what’s her deal?  What’s she been doing for 15 year of an adult life that affords her such luxury of time and money?  Until that’s explained, I’ll keep shaking my head and finding her storyline wayyyyy unrealistic.

 

 

Maybe I’m feeling melancholy and just missing Zeek and his crew.  Maybe I’m waiting for something to happen that I hadn’t already seen coming.  Maybe I just want to believe more.  There’s a lot going on in this wundershow that I simply don’t buy into.   I don’t think Randall would’ve handed over his fancy car for a joy ride to anyone without a license.  I don’t believe Kevin would’ve missed his opening night performance.  I don’t believe any kids in the history of the world go up to their rooms when their parents say “Go up to your rooms” without so much as a “… but whyyyyyyy?”

 

So I’ll stick with “This Is Us” to see if the frenetic pace of A CRISIS IS COMING AROUND THAT BEND BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO STAY TUNED TO SEE WHAT … slows to a reasonable rhythm.   I won’t desert them.

 

It’s as if the writers are afraid of losing viewers if they slow down the “A-ha!” moments and spend an episode or four fleshing out their (talented) cast of characters.  To that I say, trust us.  We know good shows when we see them.  And we stay faithful to them.

 

Like the Bravermans taught us.

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

Young Love: View From the Back Seat

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When I was in high school I remember doing whatever I could to get my boyfriend’s mother to like me.  I tried everything.  But despite my always cheerful and ever valiant attempts she always remained, I’ll say, cool towards me.  When I finally reached the brink of my adolescent insecurities I unloaded on my beau with a frustrated, what the hell?

He just shrugged.  “She likes you,” he offered lamely, “but she knows it’s not like we’re gonna get married or anything.”

Um, say what? You can imagine: at seventeen, that stung.  She knew.  Heck, deep down we both probably knew, too.  But she put it out there and there it stayed.  And I’ve never forgotten.

I can’t be certain, but maybe because of my early experience, I’ve grown into a mom lacking enthusiasm for adolescent romance.   For me, it’s always been a great source of curiosity when anyone else did.

Like my sister, for instance.  I’ve forever marveled at her unaffected exuberance of really, truly basking in teenage love.  She’d fawn over her kids’ boyfriends and girlfriends, buy them super nice presents at Christmas, happily accept their friend requests on Facebook and exude genuine excitement over anything about them.  Every high school relationship was treated as The One and it was utterly fascinating to me. Consequently (and alas, one by one), every high school break-up consumed her with incredible sadness — for a really long time.  It all seemed crazy to me.

I guess I never bought into the hype because well, adolescence is (pick one) silly, volatile, melodramatic and (most of all) fickle.  Let’s be real.  Is there a more ridiculous time in any life cycle?  When my daughter was in middle school (before it was the norm for third graders to carry cell phones) a young boy called our house and left a very detailed message on our home answering machine asking her to go on a date to the movies.  I listened to it, rolled my eyes towards the heavens, promptly deleted it and told my daughter about it – many, many years later at the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Why?  Because it made for a great family laugh and — like Carrie Bradshaw being broken up via Post-it note — there are some dating behaviors that are beyond reproach.  Rest assured:  no daughter of mine was ever going to the movies with any kid without a clue.

That was all well and good (and, okay, somewhat controllable) in middle school, but it seems before I could throw in another load of laundry – and despite my inclination to ignore them — I’ve acquired a slew of significant others in my life.   And it’s become harder to remain, I’ll say, cool towards them.

My eldest son, a young adult so not-sharing of information I couldn’t tell you his favorite color, suddenly started showing up with a stunning girlfriend.  Turns out they’ve been together for months.  She is well-spoken and personable and bright and — dayum! —  pre-med.  She possesses such exceptional attributes it  is impossible not to enjoy her.  She’s a darling.  Dang.

My high school senior has been with his girlfriend for quite some time, too.  As much as I tried to remain aloof and indifferent towards them, her ability to get him to do homework and come in before his curfew has broken down my tough demeanor.  She is an absolute delight to be around and I completely adore them together so of course it worries me. Again, 17.  Double dang.

My youngest, teetering on 16, might trouble me the most.  He’s been spending his time with such a sweet and charming young lady I find myself lamenting, this – they — would be perfect …. in about ten years….

Good grief, what is happening here?  Of late I’ve been wondering which is worse:  that these kids’ impeccable choices are turning me soft, or that maybe my sister was onto something.

It’s a tough seat to sit in for sure.  And because moms were once teenagers too, we know with assured wisdom that as much as young love blossoms with ferocity, it will also (more often than not) fade with some sadness.  Being invested in our kids’ relationships carries weighty fallout when a happily ever after doesn’t happen.

My little girl, now an extraordinary and beautiful young woman, is experiencing her first real break-up and – I have to be honest – my whole family is feeling the strain of her sorrow.  (Truth:  her grace and reflection while deep within heartache far surpasses her mother’s 1980s coping method of Diet Coke and cigarettes.  Geeze.  I thank God those DNA strands didn’t swim too strongly.)

We liked him.  We Sally-Field-really-REALLY liked him.  They shared a lengthy time together and we were all a part of it in some small way.  But it just wasn’t meant to be.  So now we’re all sad.

And my heart is hurting having to watch her go through this tough time.

 

I knew I shouldn’t have gotten him that bathrobe for Christmas.

I should’ve known better than to think my sister was smarter than me.

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

 

Why We Hug

clouds

Six years ago, a tragic car accident after his high school graduation took the life of my sister’s nephew.   Her own kids were all teens themselves when they lost their cousin, and the aftermath was unlike anything I had ever seen.  Saying the entire family suffered immeasurably doesn’t fully encapsulate the deepness of their grief or their struggle to move forward without Johnny.

I wrote the following piece six years ago. 

Today, my sister’s children, all young adults now, will say goodbye to Johnny’s brother, Jake, 22, who never fully regained his footing following the loss of his brother.

I just can’t bring myself to write again. 

 Losing a child is unimaginable for most of us..

Losing two is unfathomable.

*      *     *     *     *

 

 

 

We weave and bob through tragedy with every headline of every day.

What a shame…

How sad…

That poor family…

Isn’t that awful?

 

But eventually we move on to the circulars.  Or the crosswords.  Or (like me) the fake news, the drivel, the celebrity scoops.  Why not – along with sudoku it’s so much more enjoyable than all that heavy stuff of strangers.

One day, though, unspeakable tragedy pinpricks into our own little life bubble and everything halts.

I’d always believed that if anything ever happened to any of my children all one would need is a dustpan to come and collect me.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Game over.  Yet having just witnessed the most unfathomable display of parental strength imaginable, I realize just how wrong I’ve been in my selfish imaginings.

 

 

My sister’s nephew died in a tragic car accident this past weekend.  He was heading off to college in a few weeks.  One minute he was calling his mom telling her he was heading home after a slice of pizza and a few minutes later he was gone in an instant.  To list his accomplishments would appear trite — there were far too many.  To remark how genuinely beloved he and his family are would seem cliché —  one need only to have witnessed the hundreds of people who gathered for him, standing in line for hours – most snaking around the building in direct sun.  Or the two thousand people who sat at his mass.

 

It wasn’t very logistical for me to attend his services.  Kids everywhere…husband traveling…700 miles of driving…3 or 4 states to travel through…  But I couldn’t not go.

 

I’ve known this young man for longer than I’ve known my own children. He and his 3 brothers were as close to my sister’s 4 kids as any cousins could be.  Like siblings.  All born within months of each other.

 

Here’s what I have become mindful of:

 

…. If you’ve never experienced a mother’s tortured wails as she collapses over her child’s coffin, pray to God you never will.  It is an image you will not soon (perhaps ever) fully erase from your memory.  It will stay with you and rear its gripping visual when you least expect it.  In quiet moments.  While driving.  Scrubbing stains out of the rug.  Glancing at a photo of your own kids with their cousins, a photo you’ve passed by countless times. It is the most wrenching thing I have ever seen or experienced ever.  Ever.

 

….Grandparents having to live through this will ask why they weren’t taken instead. They will repeat this to every person they greet.  They truly, deeply, do not understand why they were not.

 

….Nieces and nephews, usually so full of light and mischievous sarcasm, will not be.  At all. And it will frighten you.  And worry you.  Teen brains are a fragile piece of equipment to begin with.  Shouldering such a dreadful experience can be dangerous to a skewed processing system.  You know they’ll pull through this but you’ll wonder how.  And when.  And what the residual effect will be. And when the light might return to their eyes.

 

….There is always going to be one person who steps up to perform the most horrific and life-altering tasks during the situation.  My brother-in-law was this person.  Identifying the body.  Making funeral arrangements.  Turning away throngs of people because his sister refused to sit down.  This man has been on the receiving end of many (MANY) an eye roll from me, my standard jab for decades being, “Dude, you sooo chose the right sister because I’d whoop yo ass….”  But as his shoulders shook under my hug I could only squeeze tighter.  I worry most about him.

 

And so after grinding to a heinous halt, life – inexplicably — starts to slowly roll along again.

 

My sadness comes in waves.  Sometimes it’s a mere blip.  Other times overwhelming.  Things like this simply bring a focus into our own lives.  We try to picture ourselves attempting to survive such insurmountable grief and really, it’s unimaginable.

 

My kids plant wordless kisses on my face.  They get it.  Mom’s not quite herself.

 

We try to bring tragedy into our lives as life lessons.

 

“Mom, don’t wait up.  You’re tired, just go to bed, I’ll be home soon and lock up.”

Ummmm…..No.

 

“But it’s a party – can’t I stay out later?”

Sure.  But we’ll pick you up.

 

“Don’t you trust me?”

Yep.  Just not everyone else out there.

 

 

My mother-in-law died on the afternoon my youngest child was born.  The circle of life.  Upon returning back home I’ve gotten word that a local friend is in labor with her fourth child.  She’s already got three boys and everyone’s excited to see if she’ll finally get herself a little pink bundle or another beautiful bottomless pit of a boy who will single-handedly increase her grocery bill by a third.  Either way, the circle of life again.  A good thing.  A great thing.

 

We hug our kids tighter.

And wish and hope and pray that their time with us is not temporary.

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

A Broken Family Tree Finds Leaves

tree

 

“Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were.”

When a contentious family fight erupted during my adolescence, my large extended family imploded and became estranged.  Poof.  Seemingly in an instant, my holidays bustling with cousins and aunts and uncles vanished.  Naturally — for a teenager especially — it was difficult, but the adage of children being resilient became evident, and my siblings and I muddled through.  Since that confusing and erratic time I found, like countess adults before me, that wounds heal, scars fade, and unfortunate experiences shape who we ultimately become.  Likely as a result of our past, my sister and I have remained steadfast in our determination not to have history repeat itself.  Throughout our years of heated arguments (because hello, sisters:  they were numerous) we’ve worked hard to get through them.  Over time we’ve been bonded by a shared simple goal:  that our own children will never, ever know such heartache.

But time is a fickle friend — who clearly pals around with his buddy, the internet.  While my mother lie unresponsive in hospice care, I wiled away hours with my laptop.  I Googled everything.  And everybody.  And eventually stumbled across a cousin.

When my mom passed I sent my cousin a message, in the event she might want to relay the news to her mother, my mom’s sister.  I don’t know why I did it.   She was a toddler when our family fractured and I had no idea what she knew or what she remembered or what she’d been told.   It really didn’t matter to me.   I just couldn’t imagine going through life not knowing if or when my own sister had died.  It was unimaginable to me.

I never heard back from her.  Five years passed without any acknowledgement that the news was received and I eventually forgot all about it.

This week, out of the blue, I got a response.  I stared down at my phone in disbelief and felt my gut tighten.  It took several minutes before I read it through.  Unbeknownst to us both, my message went into a holding file deep within the bowels of Facebook.  A safeguard to keep weirdos at bay, it’s a measure that detects non-friends and keeps their correspondence buried until one chooses to view it.  My cousin, obviously now a grown woman, was aghast at the length of time she had unknowingly ignored me.

We exchanged a few polite pleasantries and I sent over my last memories of her, expertly captured with my favorite Christmas gift of 1980 – a Polaroid camera — the last time we were together.  She immediately friend-requested me and we are now connected.  I can see though her photos the story of the life she has lived without me and I’m sure she’s done the same of me.

We are complete and total strangers through no fault of our own and while I’m certain we both know that nothing in the past had anything to do with us, it is still on shaky ground we stand.  I have countless memories of her.  With a decade between our ages, she (likely) has none of me.

My teenage recollections of summers spent at her house are vivid.   I remember all the records I listened to continuously on her parents’ stereo.  I knew her paternal relatives and her neighbors (gaaaaawd, I even went on a date with the boy next door to – holy 80s — a laser show at the planetarium).   I can recall every inch of her house and I know I taught myself how to swim in her t-shaped pool.  I remember my fascination with the endless packets of McDonalds strawberry jam in her fridge (perks of her grandfather, an executive for the company when they started serving breakfast).  I remember the sad circumstances of his death:  found motionless when the family returned from my grandmother’s wake.  He was babysitting her and her brother because they were too small to attend.

Memories.

It’s crazy, really.

And yet it’s comforting, too, no question.  But this newfound connection is melancholy also, as the many years of hurt and offense have flooded me of late.  I know why my own mother chose to stay away from her family but fervid curiosity consumes me about the other side of the story.  You know, their version, which — I am old enough to realize — may not be entirely accurate (as may not be mine).  There’s a part of me that wants to beg for clarity and information.  There’s a bigger part of me that asks, does it even matter anymore?  I spent so much of my life thinking my aunt, her mother, was such a terrible, dreadful person that it’s difficult to feel boundless joy in finding my cousin after all these years.  I think about the betrayal my mother might feel if she knew and that saddens me a little.

 

So many emotions, so few answers, but now we’ve got nothing but time.

 

I guess for now, living thousands of miles apart, we’ll see where the internet takes us.

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.