A Momoir, Chapter 15: Down & Dirty: A Marriage Turns 30

I just reached my thirtieth wedding anniversary.  It came and went without the Rocky music playing; just a basic Tuesday, a bottle of wine, some seafood and a couple of cute photos posted. Honestly, it didn’t seem like such a Herculean effort reaching the milestone. I’ve got a bunch of friends and family still long-hauling in their marriages.  I’ve also got friends who are my-age-newlyweds and one that has finally found Mr. Right with husband #3.  These friends are still at the starry-eyed stage so I try not to spend too much time with them (it makes me feel bad about broadcasting every misstep of my spouse).  Obviously they’ve got a lot of catching up to do but my point is, hitting thirty years didn’t seem as symbolic as it (probably) was.  Really, if given the choice between staying married or online dating … shudder.

I don’t have any words of wisdom and can’t share any magical tips (my Master Class on Matrimony would most resemble a stand-up routine) but having made it this far I guess I might possess some admirable experience on living harmoniously with facial tics, no?

Sure, we’ve come a long way, baby, but it’s not because I picked a perfect partner (please — more on his jazz hands later) but I guess what it boils down to is I just sorta picked someone perfect in putting up with me.

I’m super easy going.  Until I’m not.

I’m fairly sensible.  Until um, shoes.

I’m reasonably intelligent.  Until um, history, geography and science questions.

I’m a (cue WooHoo!) damn good time. Until um, Tito’s.

And that’s not even mentioning the heels, hot wings, beer and karaoke I come with.

Trust me, as wives go, I’ve got it going on.  Him?  Sigh.  Not so much.

He’s a little bit weirdo (closes every blind in every room when he takes a shower, convinced the neighbors are lying in wait with binoculars), a little bit rebel (that’s it, NO!  I am NOT getting up in the middle of the night to finish this final dose of colonoscopy cleanse!) and at times a lot annoying (everyone likes him.  I mean everyone.  Really, it’s annoying.)

Worse, while I battle the sands of time and do everything in my power to fight the good fight (collagen powder, get to work, girl!), he chooses to age right in front of my eyes.   Want to hear the extended 10-day forecast every morning before you’ve stirred your coffee? He’s your guy.

His signature move?  Watching rock and roll documentaries every weekend in the early hours before I rise and telling me all about them all day long.  Stevie Nicks, we hardly knew ye.

And then there’re all those other things I’m pretty sure are commandments of the Husband Oath:

Picking movies of zero interest to others, then falling asleep during them and asking for a recap. (Hard nope.)

Demanding the remote, selecting a show, then immediately scrolling on his phone.

Warming up the shower for longer time than his actual shower.

And finally, the absolute worst: losing weight effortlessly, whenever he feels he’s put on a few.

Right?  How in the world does he have any woman? 

I could scream, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s not all bad.  For starters, he happens to be an exceptional dad, (although he was forced to relinquish his power to assert consequence after, during a heated family blowout, he delivered the infamous phrase that will now forever be etched on our family tree: This ain’t no gangsta family!) It certainly diffused the tense situation but it took awhile for four teenagers to get up off the floor.  He’s slowing regaining some street cred with them (he ran a couple of marathons and got Venmo) so he’ll be fine.

He’s a keeper.  He gets me.  He still tells me to be careful every time he spies me on my folding stepstool.  And he continually buys me itty bitty icky underwear off the internet because in his eyes I haven’t aged a day or gained a pound since 1991. 

Most days we are a living, breathing marriage meme (If you like getting annoyed at the way someone loads a dishwasher marriage may be for you!) but clearly we’ve seemed to find our groove. Longtime couples get super fat, super grey, super snippy and super unsexy over the course of time.  We’ve figured out the secret sauce is not doing it all at the same time.  We’ve learned to alternate and stagger that shizz. 

Our marriage has had our fair share of critical moments but like childbirth, those times fade to a murky remembrance once you’ve gotten through them and the storms are in the rearview mirror.  Deep down we genuinely like each other.  And (jazz hands notwithstanding) we make each other laugh. 

About those jazz hands, I’m not spilling tea here – he parades them in public when (cringe) dancing.  Picture a ridiculously happy guy, arms raised above his head, pumping them up and down while encouraging others to join him — you know, like a bouncing (bopping) billboard for Club Med.   In the secret society of love languages, this is our private signal that I am now the designated driver.  See?  We work well together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, James, will you accept this rose?

It’s time we celebrate.  Whaddaya say we get romantic and pop in our edited, three-hour wedding videotape to see if we recognize anyone.

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Chapter 13:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/07/24/a-momoir-chapter-13-covid-edition-or-rather-still-not-skinny/

Chapter 14: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2021/04/03/a-momoir-chapter-14-this-good-mom-survived-a-bad-kid-spoiler-alert-you-can-too/

A Momoir, Chapter 14: This Good Mom Survived a Bad Kid & (Spoiler Alert) You Can, Too

If only life’s REAL rollercoaster was this innocent!

* Disclaimer:  I was recently contacted by a distraught mom.  She’d read one of my pieces about the time my son was putting us through the ringer while in high school (catch it here).  She wanted me to know she was going through something similar and was heartbroken but that I’d given her hope.  It made me remember another related story about that time so I dug it up & decided to make it another chapter. (Sorry if it seems repetitive – perhaps one day a savvy editor will assist with this!) Maybe this one will offer some hope as well. I believe the singular best moment of motherhood is realizing how utterly normal our imperfect families are.  Recognizing this is genuinely life changing.  I think it’s important to share our good, bad and please-delete-that-pic ugly so we all know we are soooooo not alone when slogging through the darkest tunnels.   It helps seeing the glimmer of light.  Because there’s always a glimmer. Always.)

*    *    * 

My parenting style is fairly conventional (except maybe when my sons were young and I’d hand them a scraper and say “Get to work” after finding dried boogers on the walls next to their beds.  I don’t know who else does this but it should be standard practice if you ask me.  Nasty boys.  Anywho).  When it came to discipline I pretty much just swayed towards commons sense.

Honor Roll allowed a kid to keep a cell phone in middle school.

A clean bathroom got a high schooler out the door on Friday night.

You dent the car, you pay for it.

It never really seemed that hard.

My parenting philosophy didn’t involve much head-scratching so I have to admit, I was ready for the adolescence of my children.  Growing up on Long Island in the unsupervised 80s, my friends and I had mastered the art of outsmarting authority and evading evidence of typical teen shenanigans.

I had this, I thought.   Bring on the acne.

I never imagined it would culminate with a composed call to the police, asking them to come get my child.

It was especially trying — and surprising — when my second born, a daughter, went through her head-spinning-Linda-Blair stage first, at fourteen.  While she was screaming and carrying on about calling Child Protective Services and attempting to bore holes into our foreheads with her fury, my oldest son just flew under the radar.  A junior in high school, he was a typical, well, boy.  Immature, uninterested in school and willing to eke by with the minimum of work exerted.  By most standards, the textbook teen boy.

He was always a bit young for his age but rather than dwell on his mediocre grades we tried to focus on his charm, and magnetism.  He was well-liked, pleasant, good natured and  —  mother’s pride aside —  a delight.  I loved the stuffing outta him.  Always have.

Turns out, this extreme love came in handy when I began to hate him.

I don’t recall exactly when the metamorphosis of my good-boy-gone-bad began but I do remember every detail of warning, every red-flag.

With each rebellious incident I tried to keep perspective.  I even rationalized.  I did this, too.  The drinking.  The pot.  The skipped school.  The scummy friends.  Wasn’t this typical teen territory?  I even admitted, I did far worse (thank you, 1986).  So I tried to keep a cool head and held firm with consequences.  Even though much of the time I felt like I was swimming against a tide (a tide of parents who unfathomably presented cars for sixteenth birthdays and provided smartphones through school suspensions) I did what I was supposed to do.  My litany of repercussions included (but were not limited to):  grounding, taking phones, taking plates off cars, paying for NOTHING (yearbook, class trips, clothing, toiletries, prom, car insurance) ….. Good God, we took away everything.  We joked that my son lived an Amish lifestyle.

He Just.  Didn’t.  Care.   About anything, it seemed.

When enough was enough, we finally took his four-year-college off the table.  We had done our part:  attended freshman orientation, bought the sweatshirts and travel mugs, kept our hopes high for some show of maturity.   It didn’t come.  As his senior year came to an end, he still hadn’t gotten it.

We put our foot down.  No way, we said.  There was no chance we were going to strap ourselves paying for a university when he wasn’t even getting himself to high school – for free. We told him he needed to get his act together, prove himself responsible and start with community college.  It was all we had left.  We privately envisioned that kid – that horrifically headline-storied kid each year – that ends up dead in a dorm room from alcohol before classes have even started.

Nothing seemed to work.  So we told him to rethink his plans for the future.

Turns out, our Great American Parenting Plan backfired because well, he left.

He just left.

He called it moving out.  But conventional wisdom would argue that throwing some clothes in a duffle bag and heading out the door without an inkling of what’s happening the next day is no such thing.  He had run away.

He had had it with our outrageous rules, our absurd expectations and our irrational belief that teens should be responsible and respectful on their journey to adulthood.  So — without any angry fanfare or slamming doors —  my oldest child left our home six days before his high school graduation.

The situation, as an understatement, was hard.  Devastating, in fact.  It was the ultimate in rejection for a mother:  a child that doesn’t want her.

And I didn’t pretend to understand it.

But I knew in my heart: he was a good kid and we were good parents.

And I knew deep down that he’d be back one day.

He was.  After a long and fretful 47 days.

When he returned we spent what was left of the summer reconnecting as a family and licking our wounds.  Damage had been done and both sides were duly cautious about a recurring Groundhog Day of past occurrences.

But things were far from perfect.  In time, familiar nagging doubts started creeping in.  There was a level of distrust that I just couldn’t shake.  At times I seemed sadder now that he was home than when he’d been gone.  Things didn’t seem much better and I wondered if I would ever again feel joy when my son walked into a room.

Disrespect is a mighty deal breaker in my home and I do not believe a refrain of “This is my home and these are my rules” should be up for interpretation. When my beloved son’s behavior started down the slippery slope of insolence once again, I felt stronger and wiser when I addressed it.

Not long after he returned, he decided once again that our curfew was unreasonable and didn’t come home.

When he eventually did …  his room was packed up, our locks were changed and we were waiting.

I told him since he wasn’t ready to resume living in MY home with MY rules, he needed to leave. He refused.   I showed him all his things.   He still refused to leave.  I then called the police.

I wasn’t afraid of the neighbors seeing, or knowing, or talking.

I wasn’t afraid of him actually leaving either.  I realized I’d survived the last time he left, and would this time, too.  And this time, it was going to be on MY terms.

I realized I wasn’t afraid of anything. And that absence of fear was indescribably empowering.

We sat together calmly, in silence, and waited for the police to arrive.

I have to say, when they walked in they seemed surprised to encounter a domestic disturbance that wasn’t terribly disturbing at all.

The officer in charge kindly – but sternly – let my teenager know the deal:  It was 48 hours before my son’s eighteenth birthday, therefore by law, we were required to care for him.  But only for two more days.  After that, should they get called again, they would have to take him out of the home.

It is my honest belief that a couple of changed locks and a few police cars will do wonders for a teen’s psyche.   It changed everything for us.

My son learned a lot of things that day.  He learned we were absolutely done. And he learned (thank you, officer) that if you expect to live in your parents’ home, you should expect to follow their rules.  Period.

I believe – no, I know – that once this became clear to him, it may have been his personal epiphany.  It was as if his rebellion started to break away and let some clarity emerge.  Hell, maybe it was simply a badge … or a look of “Really, kid?” coming from someone other than his own parents.

I have absolutely no idea why it never sank in before that moment.  I likely never will.

It was a dark and rocky couple of years and – no joke – at times paled in comparison to my daughter’s fright fest at age fourteen – but we got through it.  Good parents raising good kids usually do.

It was excruciating and difficult to do what most parents don’t seem to have the strength to do:  follow through with consequences and demand respect.  But we did.  Even though it damn well felt as if our family was in tatters, we held strong.

The joy of my firstborn, while on hiatus for a heartbreaking while, eventually returned.

Today, many moons later, the kid that spun us in circles is a successful, independent adult.   He’s still well-liked, pleasant, good natured and  —  mother’s pride aside —  a delight.  I still love the stuffing outta him and my face lights up whenever he enters the room.

The thing is, now I’ve got to come up with some new rules;   that crazy Labrador of his runs this house when he visits and gawwwwd, I am turning into a softie. I have got to get ahead of this insanity before I lose my edge!

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Chapter 13:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/07/24/a-momoir-chapter-13-covid-edition-or-rather-still-not-skinny/

Becoming Goldilocks: My Dumpster Journey to Just Right

I recently sold my house.  It went on the market right before the start of the pandemic and stalled for some time.  But then the real estate virus volcano – fueled by an urban exodus – blew and swept us up in its frenzy.  It was a great relief unloading our oversized frat house but it happened so quickly we found ourselves without a place to go.

We took a deep breath, put all our stuff into storage and moved into a small furnished seasonal rental, a few houses from the ocean.  We began living a simplified life using other people’s stuff and it caused an interesting shift.  Turns out isolation plus a storage unit made me realize just how unimportant most stuff really is.

We slept on strangers’ sheets.  When I served soup it was poured out of a blue dinosaur plastic ladle because that’s all that was in the drawer.  My family photos were replaced by a charming assortment of mermaid kitsch and polite Thank You for Not Smoking plaques. I drank wine out of teeny tiny timeshare-type glasses and used the laundry detergent leftover from last summer’s Airbnb occupants.

I had very little of my own stuff around me and no lie, I really didn’t miss it. 

With space constraints coupled with work-from-home seclusion, I only unpacked one box of clothing: an assortment of leggings and tees that were worn in a constant rotation of who the fkkk cares?  I shared a bed with my husband but not a closet – it was way too small.  His stuff was somewhere else in the rental and I wished them all the best.

I didn’t require much of anything really.  I haven’t worn a pair of actual shoes in almost a year  (with nowhere to go and no one to see, seriously: who the fkkk cares?)  I kept out two pairs of jeans (one tight pair to keep me honest and one loose pair to keep me real) but I can’t remember the last time I wore either.  I haven’t worn less makeup since sixth grade so naturally I carry adequate anxiety for Revlon and wonder who might be keeping them afloat (I so miss you, Super Model No.45 matte lipstick, but since you are unseen under my mask… farewell for now).

Downsizing into a small space has been refreshing.  No big surprise: the more space you have the more you fill it – many times with unnecessary things (looking at you, filing cabinet). With our chicks flying the nest we’d spent the better part of last year purging but even after being dumpster-happy I still feel we have more stuff than we need.

So from the start it felt good to embrace a simpler way.  To even the scales of stress that came with the uncertainty of what next? the sun gods winked at us as we settled in, offering up a remarkable Indian summer autumn.  During our first couple of months we walked the shore at low tide and pondered our next move. It was mah-va-lus.

Alas, as the weeks churned, our carefree, no-strings-attached mood started changing.  When the cold weather came and the days got shorter, our beach turned ferocious. No joke: with every storm the water swished in the toilets.  The New England winter set in and with the blustery outdoors now a limited option we soon felt the constrictions of our tiny lifestyle.  Big time.

A family of adults working/schooling from home and living in tight quarters makes for long days.  Darkness beginning before the nightly news makes for long nights.  At times we found ourselves a bit, I’ll say, testy with each other.

When Crosby Stills & Nash sang Love the One You’re With they had no idea.

Really.

No.  Idea.

I cannot sugarcoat, it became a genuine struggle staying positive or (FINE) even civil.

But we kept the doldrums at bay by looking ahead.  We may have shifted from too big to too small but like Goldilocks, we may have found something on the horizon that feels just right to resume some normalcy.  Before the next Airbnb visitors arrive here to enjoy the blue dinosaur ladle we hope to be heading back to our loyal storage unit to see how our things have fared.

Hopefully we’ll soon be hauling them to a new location for a fresh start.

I’m going to keep purging (farewell, filing cabinet) but I’ll also be keeping things simple.

With or without Revlon.

Stay tuned to see if/where we landed!

Update:  this blog was duly unpacked!  We have landed in our not-too-big-not-too-small paradise and have turned a page on a new chapter!  I know there’ll be days when I miss some of the amenities I took for granted (like coat closets – GAH! why are houses ever built without them???  Stupid!) but I’ve got room for visiting kids and plenty of space for post-pandemic parties and well….  I should be all set as soon as I replace some of that stuff I madly tossed in a dumpster. See?  I’m almost ready for my friends! 

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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

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Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Chapter 13:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/07/24/a-momoir-chapter-13-covid-edition-or-rather-still-not-skinny/

Me, My Mom & the Stink Eye

My mom was a witch.  I mean, not in the literal sense (although you might not want to ask my junior high friends; that’s an unfairly rough period to judge).  But she was super-superstitious.  I spent my entire life watching her toss salt over her shoulder and muttering nutso things all the time.  Not the typical warnings of black cats and broken backs; more like ominous forewarnings of fate misfortunes, like having babies with horns or causing a wedding day catastrophe all because you’d carelessly added oregano into your red sauce.

When my high school boyfriend gave me pearl earrings for Christmas she sniffed, “Pearls mean tears.”  She said nothing else.

Um, okay?

In fairness, he was kind of a jerk and her spidey sense for Wrong Boys was keenly aware of this way before my adolescence picked up on it but her remark alone clearly seeped into my subconscious.  I’ve never really been a fan of that jewelry (and, for this Long Island girl, ignoring that accessory was an 80s struggle for sure.  Thanks, Madonna).  But the truth is that boy caused A LOT of tears so who knows, maybe she was right.   

But there were others, and most came void of any logic or rationale.  You just obeyed.

Never put your shoes on the table.  I do not.  Never have.

Never open your shower gifts with scissors.  Think that’s easy?  Try it.

Don’t wear black when you’re pregnant.  I never really heeded this until I was strolling through NY’s San Gennaro feast in the ninth month of my first pregnancy.  Now, this is a typical street festive, where booths and food trucks line the avenue and you gain weight from the smells alone.  It was summer, and right before the start of my maternity leave.  I was wearing a spectacular solid black, A-frame swing dress that I’d ordered from a (gasp!) catalog.  It was perfect for my unforgiving girth and I could wear it even after the baby came.  Back in the pre-Amazon day you seriously took your chances with mail order clothing but this was a winner.  It made my bloated brain convinced I looked like Audrey Hepburn.  I bought two:  the other was hot pink.  Anyway, as I strolled the streets with a group of co-workers a very old woman started motioning to me from her food stand.  I smiled and started making my way towards her (free sausage sample?  All in, ma’am!). As I got closer I could see was definitely not smiling back, but rather she was shaking her head.  She began wagging a wrinkled, crooked finger at me and started speaking in Italian.  She gestured to my overall physique, kept muttering things I did not understand and made the sign of the cross before shooing me away in disgust.  

I wore the hot pink number for the remaining weeks of the pregnancy and never (ever) told my mother.  (Spoiler alert, the baby arrived without horns).

Crazy, right?  This odd and offhand advice was naturally followed up with Don’t dress your baby in black so you can bet your sweet ass my kids have never looked like those sleek Kardashian kids.  Good grief, so not work the risk.

I know all these tales of caution were the stuff of folklore handed down from her own mother.  Once in childhood my grandmother once told me to never sleep on my left side.  You’ll crush your heart, she whispered. Imagine a little girl waking up in a sweaty panic any time she woke in the middle of night to find she’d shifted to that position.  Gah!

For most of my life I took this all in and didn’t push back much because frankly I didn’t have the gumption (ahh, old-fashioned elder respect) or Google (ahh, 90s) to argue.

But every now and then in adulthood I did.

My mom would always affirm odd numbered years were bad.  Whenever something tragic occurred she’d remark knowingly, Well, it is an odd year…. 

I’d had it.  With all the respect I could muster I politely yet adamantly refused to acquiesce.  I pointed out that, in addition to getting married in an odd year (30 years in a few weeks, *smugly types with emphasis*) all four of my kids were born in odd years.

She drifted into thought for a few moments before nodding and smiling, You’re right she whispered.  I’m sure she was taking inventory of all the endless blessings that came from her obedient daughter shielding her grandchildren from all that ebony clothing.

She shrugged and went on about her business, indifferent that I’d taken down her stink eye.  Nonsense averted.

Boy, oh boy. Imagine my field day of smugness if she was here today having witnessed 2020.

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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Chapter 13:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/07/24/a-momoir-chapter-13-covid-edition-or-rather-still-not-skinny/

Gone 9 Years: A Toast to My Mom (Who is Definitely Not Digging My Present Attire)

xmas fam

My mom died nine years ago today, a few weeks shy of her 70th birthday.  Her own mom died at 69 also.  Even though I’m not a chain-smoker (since adolescence, you know, the norm back then) and keep (relatively) healthy, there’s not a doubt in my mind when my own 70th birthday is on my horizon I’ll be holding my breath on the way to that (obviously) momentous milestone.  I hear that’s a pretty profound moment in any child’s life.

 

69 is way too young.  Especially when you are (relatively) healthy (chain-smoking notwithstanding), still incredibly stylish, newly-retired and just returned from a 1st ever trip to Europe.  Really.  It’s just not fair.

 

69 is way too early.  Especially when your youngest grandchild is still a toddler and the whole slew of older ones are in the throes of expertly keeping your kids exasperated.  Damn, if you could only see them all now.  All 10 of them.  We were all together this past Christmas and man, your heart would’ve exploded with happiness and pride.  So unfair

 

69 is way too untimely.  You had finally mastered your flip phone but had barely tried texting.  Of course you’d still be watching Law and Order but I think you’d really like Netflix.

 

Funny, the things a daughter won’t forget.  When my sister and I had endless babies crying and walls of crayon and strewn cereal and crap everywhere …. you’d gently remind us to comb our hair before our husbands got home from work.  If you were here today you’d definitely be dissing my overalls and oy vey, would have never kept silent during my gal’s Free to Be You and Me unshaven armpits stage.  (I’d get the full blown disappointment; the granddaughter would get the hall pass.  Naturally.)

 

You made sure we never picked out a funky dish pattern because it was important how food looked on it.  It was also important that the food colors be pleasing to the eye (no carrots and sweet potato together—too much orange!).  Funny, I’ve never had anything but white dishes.  Just another little something that somehow stuck.

 

I think about all the nuggets of knowledge I gained from you during our not-long-enough time together.  Your little tolerance for self-pity.  Your tenacity to get things done, figure things out, keep moving forward.  My childhood friends still remember you in admiration, still shudder at the memory of your cool exterior and, always, still admit in amusement how nice it was to see you soften throughout the years.  You lived a tough life yet never let a series of unfortunate events define your path.

 

You taught me dogged determination.  And fierce loyalty.  And unwavering strength.  You showed me how to plow through obstacles and brush aside setbacks because, get over it, it’s not the end of the world.  It’s never as bad as someone else may have.

 

I miss her all the time but especially in the dog days of summer, when the bell tolls on the anniversary date.  All the memories of all those long days and nights come rushing in and the weight of all the what-might-have-beens is crushing.   The last hot night I spent with her in her home is seared into me.  When she fell on her way to bed and couldn’t lift herself up anymore I knew.  When I couldn’t lift her up all by myself either  I knew.  I held the phone and agonized, pausing before dialing because I knew.  I knew once I entered those digits and that ambulance arrived, my mom would never again step foot in her house again.

 

She never did.  And I’ve never forgotton the anguish of that decision.  Funny, the things a daughter  won’t forget.

 

Nine years.  A lifetime ago.  Back before all my kids were (gulp) grown-ups.  Back when I had a 10 year old.  And 12 year old.  And 16 year old.  And 17 year old.

 

I am no different than anyone else whose heart stays heavy over a lost loved one.  I feel her most days and talk to her more.  Usually just a quick Thanks, Mom when something goes right or a sarcastic Thanks Mom when a kid’s being a smartass.

 

I was talking with my sister recently and was having a bit of a moment.  I’d just found out I had qualified for a sizeable mortgage all on my own, without the need of a co-signer.  Just me.  I know, right?  Like I said, it was a moment.   I was trying to explain to her what that felt like.  I struggled finding the words.

 

“It’s like …” I began.

 

“…you’re Mom,” she finished.

 

My breath caught.

 

Yes.

 

Yes, I suppose that could be true.

 

Cheers, Mom.  My hair’s combed and I’ve ditched the overalls today.  Just for you.  xoxo

 

 

 

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.

 

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Chapter 13:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/07/24/a-momoir-chapter-13-covid-edition-or-rather-still-not-skinny/

 

 

A Momoir, Chapter 13: Covid Edition (or rather, Still Not Skinny)

change

I started this pandemic the same way everyone else did. Well, obvs not everybody. I mean, I never ranted about wearing a face mask or crazily demanded my right to get a haircut but hey, ‘merica. Like many, I settled in for the long haul and tried to let go of the things that were entirely out of my control. I bid adieu to my colleagues, embraced the return of my college kids and (the worst) said sayonara to my shoes. I stayed-in-place like a good little girl scout and stopped caring about a lot (A. LOT.) of stuff.

Instead, I decided to use this quarantine time to reset. From the get-go I committed to focus on two things: gratitude and improvement. I wanted to see a difference in myself when this was all over and (well, have we met?) sure, make a splash and pop out of a cake at the end of it a better, greater version of Me. Skinnier, blonder, vegan? Who knows, but, dammit, I was going to be ready for my before-and-after close-up when this was behind me.

Well this long haul has turned into a Saturday night Easter vigil mass with four children in tow (ever been to one? Here, little nine-year-old, hold this lit candle for … awhile… GAH, only once friends, only once) – in other words, no end in sight — so here we are.

Since this pandemic is so very far from being over I decided to document a quick update.

I am currently in my fifth month of working from home and (plot twist) am neither blonde nor thin and if you know me (#bacon) will never, ever be vegan.

But I think I am better.

For starters, I haven’t faltered from feeling grateful. I’ve been grateful since Day One, if solely for bypassing that Nightmare that was Homeschool. Holymotherofgod did I dodge a bullet there. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about the remarkable teachers and parents forced to reinvent the education system as we know it and whispered thanks daily for escaping that terrifying ordeal. God bless you all who did the homeschooling thing.

I was grateful for my job, my family’s health, my abundance of leggings (thanks, Steph) and my secret love of being a homebody. Sheesh, I could’ve written that viral piece of Gen X/1980s kids thriving in the seclusion of a pandemic. Stay at home? Keep yourself entertained? All the time? Joke’s on you, life: been there, crushed that. I was all in. Our nightly family dinners returned. My kids were, well, around more. Life became simpler.

Gratitude was a breeze.

So I got busy improving.

I stopped bothering with make-up and started reading — more books than I’d read in the past five years.

I stopped cutting my bangs (sorry, Marie Osmond, you’re left to carry the torch for our 50+ cohort) and started wearing Birkenstocks (I know, right? Ladies, lock up your husbands).

I stopped mindlessly checking my phone and started doing more crossword puzzles (but yes, fkkk those Friday ones. I threw the damn book away when those were all that was left and switched to another).

I stopped driving (once a week only, for groceries) and started walking 10,000 steps a day. When that became normal I shot for 15. Then 20 (again, still not any thinner so wtf but *sighs* we don’t have time to unpack that).

As the world’s pandemic fears morphed into a global awakening to racist injustice I committed to becoming more educated and turned to the people I admire most in the world for guidance: my kids.

I began listening to what they were listening to. Started reading what they were reading. Started watching what they watched (not entirely true. I will never watch that Avatar cartoon no matter how good it may be).

The podcasts getting me through my monotonous daily paces turned political, and I switched from true crime to Trevor Noah. And Pod Save America. And the NYT’s The Daily.

On television the void following my obsessive Outlander binge (oy! 5 seasons start to finish! Droughtlander here I am!), suddenly filled with Netflix documentaries. Stunned to my core by the appalling injustice of 13th, I was equally stirred by the peace depicted in Woodstock. The parallel themes of countercultures triggering dramatic change are an eerie nod to our present day cultural discord.

I wandered from the once-fluffy, now-fanatical Facebook and found my way back to Twitter and Instagram, where I started following educated and interesting people that have opened my eyes enormously. (No offense Facebook but you have become the Vortex of Aging Negativity and while you were fun for a while and I do still enjoy seeing the lives of my real (not faux) friends … let’s say there’s a reason the young people never really climbed aboard.

When the shocking behaviors of the country’s racist, caught-on-camera Karens started turning my stomach, I became obsessed with the Internet Detectives, the online superheroes who deftly and immediately expose each atrocious offender by publicly posting their names, addresses, license plates…. (I fanatically love this and cannot lie).

So sure, I’ve been ballin’ but my personal eat-pray-love renaissance hasn’t been all meditative serenity and yoga poses. Please. Far from it. With a son working as an EMT, there’s been a steady stream of mom-worry. I miss him. Also, we were hardly immune to the economic pitfalls brought on by Covid and still find ourselves running in place trying to grapple with financial stress and uncertainty.

Our home, put up for sale shortly before the lockdowns commenced, still sits on the market. While we once dreamed of downsizing, our new normal has flipped the switch on that idea; the oversized house we felt lost in not so long ago is now filled with people on computers all day long. We’ve found ourselves in a perpetual state of pause.

Employment was lost. Worse, it was lost a few months after the quarantines took effect, which means not only were we thrust into an already overloaded, log-jammed system that is excruciatingly flawed but (wait! there’s more!) the “bonus” pandemic money is now used up so ….cool, right? My business-owner friend couldn’t get her teenage employees to return to work because they were making a killing on unemployment. I’m super glad all the kids are making more money than they’ve ever seen in their short lives because fun fact: we haven’t seen a dime yet. If I did have bangs they’d probably be silver sooo….

Truth, it really (REALLY) sucks but even still, I remain grateful.

We flew our daughter back for a couple of weeks to work from our home (hey, come join us so you, too can complain about the internet!) and we hunkered down some more as an even bigger family.

We’ve been drinking wine, playing games, listening to Hamilton, watching John Mulaney stand-up and just being.

Just being a family.

And it’s been real nice.

What will you remember most about when the world changed?

We remember where we watched the OJ chase.

We recall exactly where we were when the towers fell.

And we’ll all know precisely who we focused on when Covid came to town. The President? Governor? Fauchi? Kimmel?

I was watching my kids.

During this ultimate gift of time I’d be a fool not to.

DSC_0275

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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/

Evolution of a Daughter

me&mom2 (2)

And then, in the blink of an eye, cancer.

Exhale.

You can only stand on the outskirts for so long before it grabs you in.  For first-timers, the words that are hurled from the onset are shattering.

“…tumors resting on three major veins…”

“…lesions on the brain…”

“…thirty percent…”

You find yourself gripped, nodding, stoically taking it all in (smartly, with a tape recorder going) and try to keep your composure because the last thing your mother – your rock – needs to witness is your own fear.

So you keep it together and let the world swish past you and do what you’re told.  See this oncologist.  Okay.  Go to this radiology appointment.  Got it.  Get to this surgeon.  Will do.

And before you know it you’ve spent a week – precious time in Cancerland – just preparing for battle.  You spend your afternoons watching endless episodes of Law & Order: SVU and Dr. Phil and Judge Judy (because that, my friends, is the routine of retired people).  But it’s okay.  You welcome the mindless and the mundane.  Much more happens in a week’s time.

You’ll start to hyperventilate in the middle of Kohl’s.  When you do, your friends’ words will get you through it.

Your husband will realize what an insanely difficult job you have as a mom and will appreciate you like never before.

Your teens – with cell phones attached to their bodies like extra appendages – won’t even text to see how things are because they are so afraid to know.

Your little boys – usually so wry and animated – will sound small – like little boys — on the phone.

You’ll wonder if you sent out your bills before you left but then you won’t even care.

 

In fact, you will brilliantly assess with unapologetic clarity that so, so many questions and worries in life  — actually, most of them — can be answered with a simple

“So what?”

 

Life throws curveballs.  We get that.

Miscarriage.  Infidelity.  Death.  Check, check, check.  Been there.  Done that.  Me, too.

 

We’re women.  We put on our big-girl panties and push up our sleeves and expertly deal with it.  We sniff out friends who will drop everything and listen.  We surround ourselves with other survivors and find strength.  And we get through.  There’s a shitload of wine.  And there’s an abundance lot of tears.  But we push through.  Because we’re women and that’s what we do.

 

Women are so incredibly strong about everything that Life – laughably – almost seems to come easy.  So Life keeps at it.  We are so unfathomably unbreakable that Life keeps hurling us zinger after zinger after zinger until finally —  eventually — it finds our Achilles Heel.  Life gives us children.

 

And then Life zings us agin because these children – the very beings that make us crazy for a very good portion of our lives – become the very pillars that we depend on down the road.

 

So at this exact moment I am a pillar of strength for the most important woman in the world to me.

 

 

(* reposted from 2011.  My mom passed a few months after this originally appeared.  Of course I still lean lean on my exceptional tribe of women and my adored brood of children for Life’s continuation of zingers because well, that’s the easy part.   xoxo)

 

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.

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10:  Click here:  A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11:  Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

Chapter 12: Click here:  A Momoir, Chapter 12: When a Teen Up & Leaves

 

A Momoir, Chapter 12: When a Teen Up & Leaves

jr

Last night I shared a glass of wine with the other woman.  We sat across from each other, not quite knowing how to proceed, not quite certain who should go first, not quite adept at morphing a previously computer-screen-correspondence into a face-to-face conversation.

 

I could see why the love of my life was drawn to her.  We were eerily similar.  I’d gathered that from our emails.  We sounded alike…on cyber chat.  We reasoned alike.  We held the same values and morals.  Yes, morals.

 

This was no adulteress.  Oh no, not at all.  This was the woman – the mother – whose home my teenaged son had run away to.

 

He called it moving out.  But conventional wisdom would argue that throwing some clothes in a duffel bag and heading out the door without an inkling of what’s happening the next day is no such thing.  He had run away.

 

He had had it with our outrageous rules, our absurd expectations and our irrational belief that teens should be responsible and respectful on their journey to adulthood.  So — without angry fanfare or slamming doors —  my oldest child left our home six days before his high school graduation.

 

And now, on the eve of his one-month anniversary date (breathe) of life on an air mattress, his preferred mother and I sat in my home and shared some shrugs.  And Pinot.

 

The situation, as an understatement, was hard.  Devastating, in fact.  It was the ultimate in rejection for a mother:  a child that doesn’t want her.

 

And I didn’t pretend to understand it.

 

I didn’t understand it because it didn’t follow the script of a Lifetime original movie.  There weren’t any “I hate you’’s or abuse or betrayal or Meredith Baxter Birneys.  We’d been navigating the typical insanity that comes with adolescence and (insert back pat here), actually thought we were doing damn good so far.  There were boundaries and consequences and forgiveness and laughter and acne.  Nothing too strict, nothing too lenient.  Having survived our own teenage years in the ‘80s of New York, gawd, if anyone knew about pushing the limits of youth, it was us.  Fully aware of setting standards and precedents for the three kids that followed behind, my husband and I rolled with the teen madness.

 

Never had we imagined our rolling would come to a screeching halt.

 

At first we waited.  He’ll be back, we reasoned.  We hadn’t allowed him to take his car – surely he’d have to get back and forth to work.  But no.  He relied on his friends and – we’ll be dammed – they came through.  So far, for an entire month.  Well alrighty then.  Interesting bunch, those teenagers.

 

The other mother contacted me immediately.

 

She lived a few blocks away.  I explained to her my son did not get kicked out of our home, that this was all his own doing.  She has two teenaged sons herself.  She understood.  She said she’d keep me posted on events as they occurred and thus our cordial relationship began, allowing me to become privy to more details of my son’s life than I’d even known when he was in my own home.

 

As far as shiteous situations go, I had stumbled into a remarkably awesome one.  This other mother was sharp.  Gave him an early curfew and chores and expectations. Boundaries.  Consequences.  Hmmm.  Weirdly familiar, right?

 

She admitted she couldn’t come up with a logical excuse for – after four weeks – throwing him out.  He was the consummate house guest:  polite, obedient and respectful.  In truth, she really, really liked him.

 

Yeah.  We get that.  We do, too.

 

She talked to him daily about the value of reconnecting with his family and told him she just couldn’t understand why he wanted to go through this without them.

 

Yeah.  Same here.

 

Still, we put a positive spin on things for the sake of our other kids and silently pray that he comes to his senses and (cue in slap from Cher), snaps out of it.

 

I haven’t sat idly by, though, hand-wringing and despondent.  With the situation seemingly out of my control I did what any other mother in my position would do:  hauled my ass into therapy.

 

After a full debriefing her assessment was unsurprising:  I was a reasonable person trying to reason with an unreasonable adolescent.  She said that since my son was not relying on me for anything the situation was most definitely out of my control and I should let it go.

 

Let it go.

 

Let it go?

 

Let go of a child?  (He is a high school graduate, she reminded. On paper, an adult.)

 

But…..but….but…..

 

But nothing.

 

I plunked down a few co-payments for a few weeks but eventually started to space out my visits.  She was wonderful but hearing a therapist tell you something you already know is not exactly cost effective.  My girlfriends do it for free.

 

So there is no happy ending to this cautionary tale, unless one looks at the (okay, almost amazing) relationship I’ve made with the other mother.  We talked for hours – and not just about my son.   It was obvious:  having met under different circumstances, we’d likely be good friends.

 

She is giving him a safe environment to straighten out his head and I am giving him the freedom to figure it out.

 

I am without explanation as to why my son is attempting to assert his maturity in the most immature way imaginable.  And it is unfathomable to me why he needs to go through this – or anything for that matter – without his family around him.  And it is crushing.  I won’t lie:  it is the most crushing and hurtful and indescribable pain I have ever felt as a mother.

 

But he is a good kid and we are good parents.

 

I guess I know deep down he’ll be back one day.

 

I just wish it had been yesterday.

 

*   *   * Update *   *   *

 

Somewhere in between the time this author had the courage to write this …

and print this …

her seventeen-year-old returned home.

It was a long 47 days.

Ironically – it was also just as long (if not shorter) as this author’s own silent treatment to her own mother…

when SHE was seventeen years old.

 

Exhale.

 

 

*  *  * (Updated) Update *  *  *

(especially for those moms who may be experiencing this now)

 

This author’s son is now a young adult.  He is educated, employed, happy and independent.  He and his mom often share a laugh about the time he was a knucklehead.

 

Just. Hang.  In.  There.

xoxo

 

 

 

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.

 

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10:  Click here:  A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

Chapter 11:  Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/02/22/a-momoir-chapter-11-how-many-back-in-my-days-until-you-officially-morph-into-your-mom/

A Momoir, Chapter 11: How Many ‘Back in My Days…’ Until You Officially Morph into Your Mom?

blogkids

I started writing this blog when my kids were little, way before I started taking joint supplements and sleeping with a white noise machine.  The trials and tribulations of our lives have been well documented throughout the years because I’m hoping all the anecdotes will give my family something amusing to look back on when I’m busy haunting them from above (you know, since the whole baby book thing wasn’t exactly my strong suit).

 

At any stage, parenting’s never seemed a cakewalk but it’s always seemed relative. There was always fodder for material and especially for a blog, there was also a community for figuring things out.  There was plenty of shared concern for surviving mystery hives or adolescent heartbreak or getting overlooked for the travel team (the injustice!) and there was never a shortage of advice (and commiseration) over lost homework assignments, kids incapable of getting to school on time or insufferable hygiene.  We all muddled through together and motherhood didn’t seem insurmountable.  My wise friend Jackie always raised her chardonnay to “Little kids, little problems.”

 

These days my adult kids have their own array of big-kid problems now but again, it comes with the calendar. They’re drowning in debt, juggling student loans, and trying to make rent.  They’re realizing what a paycheck can cover and – more importantly — what it cannotDayum, life is expensive, they lament.  Yes, it is.  News flash: it always has been.

 

It’s difficult watching your kids misstep in adulting and even harder keeping it zipped when some of their decisions are not, I’ll say, advantageous to them.  Poor decisions are tough to watch and even harder to witness when splashed all over social media (*throws head back, raises fists, gawwwwwwd, why is this not sinking in???).    It’s also rough because we’ve come to know: if our kids are not asking for advice ….  it’s usually a waste of breath offering it. My husband gets frustrated but I’m a bit more meh. Stop solving their problems with a fifty-year-old brain I often say to him.  Or, when it’s time for the jugular: You did the same dumb thing when you were that age.

 

Still, even now, when most of their mistakes have far mightier – and costlier — consequences than a promposal gone awry (*cue Mom’s nagging Pay your fkkkking parking tickets!)  I don’t mind this stage of parenting.  I look at what’s going on with “little” kids today and I thank my lucky stars that time is behind me.  I’m certain I’d be a lunatic trying to navigate motherhood in these times and I’m not so sure I’d agree with Jackie anymore; little kids seem to have way bigger problems now.

 

For starters, the social media is a complete nightmare.  Kids going off the deep end because someone didn’t like their picture?  Good grief.   My heart goes out to teachers.  I can’t even imagine what their days are like.

 

Add in the bullying, so rampant and accessible with (^^^) social media (Finsta?) and it is outrageously out of control.

 

Add in the heightened toxicity of enraged sports parents and it’s shocking.   Horrible when my kids were playing, they are – according to headlines — downright homicidal now.

 

Add in the seemingly daily reports of lewd and lecherous adults in positions of authority and you’re left side-eyeing everyone.  What.  The.  Effing.  Effff.

 

Add in the desperation for Canada Goose, Louis Vuitton, Lebron Nikes or anything Kylie Jenner is shilling lately and it seems impossible to keep up.

 

Add in the school shootings.

And the mean girls now emerging before second grade.

 

And everything else that has succinctly squashed innocence and I say my kids figuring out how to keep their electricity on sounds way less dangerous.

 

Kids are getting snatched in broad daylight.  I see faces from every state scrolling on my feed every single day.  Kids are communicating with complete strangers online.  Worse, they’re meeting up with total strangers.

 

I know, I know.  I’m not naïve and I am aware all this terrible, horrible no good scary stuff has been going on forever.  It just seems that the terrible, horrible no good scary stuff has reached a fever pitch with no ebb in sight.   I’ll take a 30-yo ‘kid’ still living in my house over this any day, thankyouverymuch.

 

If I was raising little kids today, I’d be swimming against a tide of opposition and I would not be able to let it go and Elsa my way out of it.

 

I don’t want to know a thing about TikTok.

 

I don’t want to debate anti-vaxxers.

 

I don’t want to give to a Go Fund Me so your kid can go to Germany.  Trust me: mine have never been and they are A-OK.

 

I don’t want to see breastfeeding or working or exercising or stay-at-home or ANY moms get shamed for doing ANYthing.  This is total bullshit.  Why does everyone feel entitled to expound negative opinions on anything that has absolutely nothing to do with them?   It is 100% maddening.

 

Please.  There’s even stupid stuff I wouldn’t be on board with (settle down, Target, no, I am not interested in buying decorations for the trunk of my car at Halloween.  WHAT IS THIS?).

 

I just want things to go back to normal before I have grandkids, that’s all.  We haven’t depleted all the normal in the world, have we?   (Quite possibly: just got an early morning text from my bestie, alerting me that kids at her local university got in trouble for having a Corona virus party on campus.  Sigh.   Thank God there was no internet when we were in college.)

 

These be crazy times and my observations are neither new nor illuminating.  I’m just glad my worries about pedophiles on the other end of video games are in my rear-view mirror and for that I am grateful.  To all the moms of little ones fighting the good fight every day, you have my sincere respect, my best wishes, and my appreciative props.  I’m sorry you must send in the list of ingredients on your bake sale brownies but I’m not sorry I missed that either.

 

If it’s any consolation I hear help might be on the horizon.  There’s talk of lowering the voting age to sixteen (that’s a super good idea, right? she mulls, reminiscing about her own 16yo fashion choices in 1982) so maybe soon we’ll be saying here comes Kanye to the rescue.

 

You guys can chew on that while I go hound a kid about the perils of late payments.

 

(Disclaimer to the Mom-Shamers:  no humans were harmed in the writing of this blog, which was meant strictly for tongue-in-cheek, exasperated entertainment only.  If any part of this this has angered you in any way, please:  be better than me.  Be Elsa.)

 

 

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.

 

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10:  Click here:  A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations

 

The Holy Grail of Happiness (or The Best Thing About (Maybe) Moving)

bar

 

My husband & I decided to put our house on the market.

We don’t have to sell it but there was a time not too long ago that we almost did.  Our beloved perfect home came with a hefty price tag all those years ago and frankly, the mortgage is a big nut each month.  Always has been.  When my husband lost his job for a bit of time a couple of years ago, we watched in trepidation as that nut grew into an entire tree, leaning and inching closer to our heads and blocking out the sun with every week of a missing paycheck.  Going through financial duress while your kids are all going through college is not for the weak, trust me.

 

Things eventually turned around but that murky fear of what if they don’t really never has been forgotten.   It’s always simmering, bubbling beneath even the happiest of times.  So, while we’re in a stable place right now we decided to test the real estate waters and see if anyone else thinks this place is the bomb, too.  Besides, who doesn’t dream about downsizing?

 

We’ll soon see how that goes but that really isn’t my point in divulging this news.  Hell no.  Instead I am here to publicly proclaim that, because of this experience, I have discovered the Holy Grail of Happiness.  Are you ready?  Have you gathered ‘round closer?  Got your readers on?

 

I implore you to heed my next four words:

 

Throw. Out. Your. Shit.

 

I’m not even kidding; the results will astound you.

 

When we decided to unload our adored albatross we set up a five-month plan for ourselves:

 

Month 1: Purge.

We scheduled Goodwill pickups every month and got to work decluttering.  Heavenly gods of garbage, we had no idea how bad it was (truth:  one never does). We emptied out cabinets that were filled with glassware from our 1990 engagement party, plastic cups from every concert venue on the eastern seaboard and beer cozies from every pub giveaway ever grabbed (my gawd, there’s been a lot of beer in our lives and apparently it’s very important to keep it chilled at all times).   We gathered all the rarely used kitchen gadgets and duplicate cookware (sorry, five friends who once left behind a long-forgotten Pyrex pie plate, all have found another home) and threw them in the pile, too.   Banished were the bridal shower bedsheets and boxed up were the dusty dorm duvets.   It was a start.

 

Month 2: (Purge and) Patch.

We kept purging (sayonara, stacks of children’s books and outdated leather trench coats) but we also started repairing all the yuck.  You know yuck.  Yuck is all the nasty-ass things around your home that have become part of the scenery you’ve been ignoring for years.   We fixed the crack in in the ceiling we’ve stared at for more than a decade.  We patched up walls where little elbows had crashed through the years and smoothed plaster where ninja noggins had bounced.   We cleaned up the scuffs where tiny karate kicks had landed and continued to shell out piles of money to fix things no one would ever notice.  No lie, this sucked.  Like fixing your muffler.

 

Month 3: (Purge and Patch and) Paint.

Yes, of course we kept purging.  It became a Marie Kondo challenge of epic proportions, getting rid of cheerleading trophies and participation ribbons for any spelling bee, geography bee and instructional swim class my kids ever experienced.  Seriously, it was absolutely ridiculous. (You too, right?  WHYYYYYY???)   But now it was time to spruce things up.  We repainted the tired walls of handprints going up each staircase and touched up the bannisters to their original regal state.  We spiffed up the porch, the doors, the treads and the trim.  My husband then tossed together every forgotten partial gallon of paint that had been neglected in the basement and created a new color.   He rolled it onto the basement floor and gave it a crisp, clean facade.  My friend/realtor was impressed (a clean and organized basement tells potential buyers you take care of your things—who knew?) but my husband was merely on a mission to get those paint cans gone.

 

Month 4: (Purge and Patch and Paint and) Pack.

HELL YESSSSS we kept purging.  Why did I save every single report card from every single semester for every single kid?  Because we all do, that’s why.   While not as bad as some of my friends (I did not, like one, save baby teeth #gag), I duly saved everything else like most moms.  I carefully sorted through a filing cabinet of homemade Mother’s Day cards, second grade artwork, pediatrician growth forms, prom mementos and a plethora of keepsakes my now-adult children wouldn’t care to look at twice.  No joke:  it was incredibly hard tossing away all those sentiments of time flown but most of it was silly, even by mom standards.  We packed our most-cherished memories (no teeth) into meticulously labeled rubber totes and stacked them neatly in the basement (you know, on the nice painted floor).

 

Month 5: (Purge and Patch and Paint and Pack and) Prepare.

When all that was done (ahead of schedule – it really is amazing how addicted you become to Throwing.  Shit.  Out.)  we started staging the house.  In simpler terms this means eradicating all evidence that you ever actually lived there.  Spoiler alert: this was the toughest part.   Amazing and happy framed photos of my whole family adorn walls in every room of our home.  Even the bathroom.  To remove each one and carefully encase it in bubble wrap, not knowing when — or where —  it would come back out, was torture.  And it screamed of finality.  Wait.  Are we really doing this?  Are we sure?  Really?

 

Man, I hated that.

 

So now we wait.   We have no idea where we’ll go or what we’ll do if it does sell but I will say, the whole endeavor has given my better half & me a lot of opportunity to chat … and muse … and dream … and ponder what our next life adventure will be.   We’re in the second act of our sitcom life and it’s not such a bad thing having another common interest after 30-plus years together. We spend weekends creeping at Open Houses and put homes on our Please Wait for Us List … only to dutifully cross them out when they  get snatched up and move to our Ones That Got Away List.

 

It’s all good.

 

Even better, should others somehow not find our organized basement so appealing, we’ve already committed to a Plan B: unpacking some bubble wrap and staying put for a little while longer in our spit-shined, shit-free home. With this view.  Definitely not so bad.

 

dusk.jpg

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:

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/

Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

Chapter 7:  Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/12/01/a-momoir-chapter-7-hello-happiness-are-you-out-there-hello-hello/

Chapter 8: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/06/14/a-momoir-chapter-7-high-school-graduation-my-big-fat-so-what/

Chapter 9: Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2019/08/12/a-momoir-chapter-9-parenting-horrific-behavior-would-you-know-could-you/

Chapter 10:  Click here:  A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations