Socks, Backpacks and Life in a Locker Room

Many years ago in my life before children, I was, like many of my childless friends, a smug on-looker. I recall many times thinking that I would never allow MY child to do that, to wear that, to say that, to {add any ignorant, snobbish thing you can think of here}. My child would be impeccably polite and perfectly groomed. My child would answer me, with “Yes pretty Mommy,” at all times when following to a T each and every one of my directions. My child would excel at every little thing to which they tried their perfect hands. I was confident that I would be a contender for Mother of the Year (MOTY) each and every year of parenthood.

I wasn’t really that bad – but bad enough to meet with some monumental surprises at what being a Mom was really about. On the day that I became a mother, July 22, 1986, I knew not what was in store for me. Nor did I know the complications that would ensue on June 2, 1988 or July 26, 1990! I was the mother of three sons. I remained assured that I would lead these young men to perfection!

Ian

There were so many things that I couldn’t have anticipated. I had no idea the things that I would be called to manage:

  • Socks. The challenge with socks began in infancy with those adorable little knit socks would be rubbed and pushed by those chubby miniature feet until they could no longer hang onto the teensy little toes they were meant to cover. How delightful! When the little socks fell off, all the more chance to nibble on toes and play “This Little Piggy.” I’m not sure what it is about boys and socks that make them such mortal enemies, but through the stages of tube socks through to adult sized ankle socks – they seemed to fall off of feet continually. Socks laying on the floor were like droppings that I could follow to find any one of three boys. At one time, I washed, matched and folded all of the socks color coded for each boy. With time, fewer and fewer pairs could be made as the magic sock ghosts would spirit one of a pair away to some unknown dimension. Eventually, I gave up. I continued to wash and dry the socks – then dumped them unceremoniously into a plastic bin from which each boy could pull two – any two – to pull on before running out the door to school. Did they match? The odds were poor, and I don’t really know because I chose not to look. I once tested to see how long a single, dirty sock would lie on the mat in the garage outside the door. After 12 days of stepping over it, I caved and picked it up. I stopped planning what I would wear to the MOTY banquet.
  • Backpacks. Somehow, my children were unable to come in the door from the garage, make a sharp right turn and set their school backpacks on the little wooden bench with a heart carved into the back. That was what was supposed to happen. What actually happened was that backpacks would be shed like old skin – anywhere: on the driveway, in the bathroom, at the door either inside or outside – it didn’t matter. One day when I came home from work and the boys were sneaking in some television, I tripped over two backpacks dropped at the door. I was miraculously able to calculate better than a rough estimate of the number of times that I had told them to put their backpacks on the bench! Ian was midway through the fourth grade, which meant four full years at 180 days each (724) and about half of another year of 90 days, which totaled EIGHT HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN TIMES THAT I HAD SAID TO PUT THE DAG-GONE BACKPACKS ON THE BENCH! I announced my mathematical wizardry loudly and forcefully and added my belief that reasonably intelligent children with that amount of repeated practice should be able to get that ONE SIMPLE THING DONE!! I was certain that I fell out of the MOTY running completely that day.
  • Sports Equipment. I just didn’t know how much space, schmozel (a word learned from my mother) and stink could result from basketballs, bicycles, baseballs, gloves, sticks, goals, jerseys, hats, helmets, pads and pucks. They were everywhere. I lived my life in what seemed to be an athletic locker room. Some of the stuff would be abandoned on the driveway, forcing me to stop short of the garage, leave the car, pick my way over the shambles of equipment and backpacks, into the house to holler for someone, ANYONE to move the hockey goal out of my BLESSED way! And would someone please pull that hockey puck out of the garage door where it was firmly stuck. Someone had clearly perfected their slap-shot. Not even a MOTY nomination that year.

Andrew

It hadn’t occurred to me the things that would come slipping out of my mouth. Before I was able to stop myself, I heard my voice saying things like:

  • “Clearly Johnny’s mother doesn’t love Johnny as much as I love you,” in response to a request for permission to do something inappropriate or dangerous. Not only did I give up on MOTY, I had to deposit some money in the therapy account for that child.
  • “What do you say?” This was a prompt that I simply couldn’t stop myself from providing. I wanted my children to employ etiquette. My boys knew that the response that would work when requesting something from me was, “Please Pretty Mommy.” I was racking up MOTY points!
  • “Don’t worry about breaking the {insert toy, book, appliance, or car here}. It’s nothing that a couple hundred dollars won’t fix.” Yes. I did.
  • “Let Mommy help you pack.” Said to an eight year old threatening to run away, to which I added, “Please be sure to send me an address when you find a new family. I will miss you so and I want to be able to come to visit. If your new family will allow me, of course.” Now that one was clever and it worked. I may have been in the MOTY running that time.

I didn’t know that I would send a child on deployment overseas. I didn’t know that I would help a young man recover from a broken heart. I didn’t know that I would cheer so loudly at a long fought for college graduation.

I was shocked by the incongruence of feeling furious and monumental relief simultaneously having found a little one that I thought was lost. I was amazed at the new glow the holidays could only hold when delighted boys saw that Santa Claus had visited. I could never have guessed the level of consistent anxiety during deployment, and the constant reassurance and support from the stateside children.

Eric

I had no idea the depth of love that I could feel until I became a mother. I won the prize after all. I have three wonderful men that I proudly call my sons.

World’s Best Mom – The Real One

Dear Readers – I know that I’ve posted this one before – each year at Mother’s Day, in fact. I can’t help but post it again. It’s tradition. And it’s true.

Who is it that is The World’s Best Mom – I mean the real one?

worlds best

I hear today’s mothers talk about how difficult it is to raise children. It is. Today’s mother fills so many roles: care-giver, taxi driver, social secretary, tutor, short order cook, therapist, and laundress to name a few. Many times, today’s mother is also an employee, working part or all of the week outside of the home. You might think that the World’s Best Mom that I mentioned in my last post is one of these. Not so.

I know the woman that is written about on the covers of all those cards lining the shelves of your neighborhood grocery, drug store, or Hallmark location. Sometimes I think that the people who write the nostalgia that you read there have covertly followed this woman around for many, many years. Watching. Studying. Examining the methods, the skills, the seamless way that she somehow balances all that she does, with their pencils balanced in their hands, taking notes, jotting down words now and then to try to capture this magic.

They watch as she nurtures so many little ones simultaneously. Six children in a ten year span. She dresses them and feeds them. Dressing is not just pulling some clothes onto wriggling little bodies. They watch her late into the night, expertly guiding fabric through a Singer sewing machine – miraculously transforming bits of raw material into garments that stylishly adorn her children, her teens, her young adults, as they grow and mature.

mothers

She doesn’t drive through a fast food store or take the brood out for a restaurant dinner. No. Restaurants are meant for adults. The interlopers watch her in the spring as she wrestles with an old and battered tiller to turn the soil in the acre-large garden, in which she will sow the vegetables – corn, potatoes, beans, peas, lettuce, onions, cabbage, carrots – all in long rows which she will tend through the summer and harvest in the fall, storing up all that will be needed for the long winter. Her children are with her – being guided and taught, learning the difference between a weed and a plant that will bear their sustenance. The spies witness the tending of the poultry as it is carefully cleaned and frozen. They watch her on baking day, when she kneads the dough that will be baked into the most delicious loaves of bread and pans of rolls. They observe closely while she teaches the girls the finer points of jelly rolls, pancakes, and chocolate cake.

They see her thank God for each and every meal.

They watch in wonder as she earns a living, along with her husband – raising the wheat, the cattle, the hogs. They follow her when she is called to drive the truck, the tractor, the coffee and lunch to her husband while he works the land. Copious notes are taken during the harvest – she at the house: preparing the food for the hungry children and the harvesting crew, pickling and freezing the bounty from the garden, preparing her children for school, and sending them on the bus to the school in town.

With water running into one sink in the farm house, she keeps the home clean, washes the clothes, bathes her babies.

black best mom

The sentiment writers are awestruck as this woman guides her young. She pushes them. She demands good things. Even when the child would rather take the easy way, she expects admirable results. She knows the value of work and teaches it to her children.

She reads to them. She writes and colors with them. She’s known to break into song at unpredictable moments. Old songs. Good songs. Perfect pitch. “I’m an old cow hand – from the Rio Grande.” She and her husband somehow purchase a piano. She sets the timer daily to insure that thirty solid minutes of practice are completed each day.

This woman gracefully, lovingly watches her children grow. She ushers them through graduations, sends them off to college, sews their wedding gowns, bakes and expertly decorates their wedding cakes. She turns them over to the world, knowing that they will do good things.

Still, the agents watch this woman go on. They are thrilled to joyous celebration when she becomes a grandmother; and humbled to tears as they watch her quietly, firmly, steadfastly reassure one of her own. “It’s alright, Judy, Mom’s here,” they hear her say, as she guides the daughter to life’s end.

They see her nurturing continue as she cares for the her husband in the last few of their 57 years together, while his once razor sharp mind diminishes to confusion and doubt.

Mom and grandboys

Still, the agents see her smile, see her laugh, observe her delight in her grandchildren, all ten of them – each one receiving wisdom, comfort, cuddles and cookies.

These spies have been exposed to what motherhood is and are full of wonder at how this one woman could be so much to so many – year after glorious year! The operatives cannot imagine how they will express all of this and try so hard to contain all the meaning within a limited number of words, with fancy font on the front of a greeting card. The best they can produce is “World’s Best Mom.”

How do I know this woman? Well, if you were there: in the garden during the summer, on Main Street of the little town on Saturday night, on Sunday mornings at the little country church, you would have seen a little tow-headed girl, second youngest of the half-dozen, holding her mother’s hand. Staying close.Mom

I know this woman. I am honored to say that she is my mother.

Love You, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day. You are the World’s Best.

Lori

 

 

World’s Best Mom!

I once received a Mother’s Day card from the boys with the words “World’s Best Mom” on the front. I was delighted that the boys found such a sweet sentiment for me to mark the one day of the year sanctioned to honor the most honorable job in the world. Generally, I don’t recognize what I think of as “Hallmark Holidays” – you know, the ones that are spaced out evenly throughout the year so that Hallmark and other greeting card companies can supplement their sales.

Photo Credit: cafepress.com

Photo Credit: cafepress.com

I did feel a little uneasy with the “World’s Best Mom” message, though. You see, my boys are most decidedly mistaken. I am not the world’s best mom. Each and every year since the arrival of my oldest son, I have committed some of the most grievous parenting errors.

I must say, that I did not set out to do a poor job of mothering. When I was growing up, I knew that I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a teacher and a mother. Not only did I want to engage in those most honorable professions, I wanted to be good – no – FANTASTIC at each of them. In fact, prior to being blessed with any children at all I knew EXACTLY how I would be a prize-winning mother. I had seen so many examples of parenting behaviors that I vowed I would never do. I also had seen children doing things that I swore to myself, and regrettably, to others, MY children would NEVER do.

Ian Mutant Ninja Turtle

Ian Mutant Ninja Turtle

In retrospect, it is true that ignorance is bliss. I may not have committed any (or many) of the faults that I saw others perpetrate upon their children, as I watched with haughty disdain! However, I  was able to single-handedly impose a wide and vast variety of ill-conceived parenting techniques upon my mostly innocent (and that may be a generous descriptor) children! Although my memory is somewhat dulled, I believe that I can reach through the fog of time to retrieve a few.

I recall with a healthy measure of guilt, how cute I thought Ian looked when, at a children’s festival, he had his face painted to look just like one of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cute to be sure, until the colorful mask was removed and revealed an angry, red, near blistering rash remaining where the adorable mask had been.

Who wouldn't want to kiss him?

Who wouldn’t want to kiss him?

Or the time that one of the boys came home from a lovely day at kindergarten and reported that a little girl had kissed him on the playground. Rather than recognize the act for the wholesome one that it surely was, I experienced a surprising welling of indignation. I took that angelic boy’s face in my hands, and growled through my teeth that he could march right up to that little hussy the next day at school and tell her that no one, NO ONE kisses my boys except for me!

Angelic!!

Angelic!!

And then there was the day that I heard that phrase that I believe every child carries around in their back pocket, waiting for just the perfect time to deploy on their parent: “But Johnny’s mom is going to let him <insert a clearly dangerous activity of your choice here>.” My instinctive response went something like: “Well clearly, Johnny’s mother doesn’t love him as much as I love you!” Ouch!

And, of course, there was the time that, while interrogating ten-year-old Ian about his playmate’s accusation of Ian having used the “f” word, I actually handed the aforementioned cuss word to him on a silver platter. Ian was steadfastly denying that he had not uttered a bad word, in fact, he claimed not to even know what the “f” word was!

“Really,”  I said to Ian in disbelief! The child was in the fourth grade! He had ridden the school bus daily for the past two years with older children. Surely, he knew the word to which I was referring! “The “f” word, Ian! You know, the one that rhymes with truck! I can’t believe that you would use that word with your friend!” I exclaimed.

Ian’s brow furrowed deeply in thought. He never was really good at rhyming, or any of the phonological skills, for that matter. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “F*¢^? Is that the “f” word, Mom? F*¢^? Tell me, Mom, is that what it is? I thought that the “f” word was fart!”

Ugh! Each time that I committed on of these thoughtless acts upon the boys, I would cringe as the words would spill out and immediately wish them back into my undisciplined mouth.  And I would think, “Nice going, Lori, that puts you out of the running for Mother of the Year for another year.” Sometimes, I would remind myself that it might be a good idea to deposit another few hundred dollars into the account set up for future therapy. The kind that can repair the damage done by a mother careless with her words.

I’m not sure if the boys will read this post, and if they do, whether they will recall any of these poignant moments from their early childhood. Hopefully not. It seems that they have somehow been able to recall mainly the good stuff that happened during their younger years. It must be so – they’ve told me, via Hallmark, that I am the World’s Best Mother.

Though I’m not the epitome of mothering, I know a person who is. Watch for a post in a minute, and you can read all about her.

 

World’s Best Mom

I once received a Mother’s Day card from the boys with the words “World’s Best Mom” on the front. I was delighted that the boys found such a sweet sentiment for me to mark the one day of the year sanctioned to honor the most honorable job in the world. Generally, I don’t recognize what I think of as “Hallmark Holidays” – you know, the ones that are spaced out evenly throughout the year so that Hallmark and other greeting card companies can supplement their sales.

Photo Credit: cafepress.com

Photo Credit: cafepress.com

I did feel a little uneasy with the “World’s Best Mom” message, though. You see, my boys are most decidedly mistaken. I am not the world’s best mom. Each and every year since the arrival of my oldest son, I have committed some of the most grievous parenting errors.

I must say, that I did not set out to do a poor job of mothering. When I was growing up, I knew that I wanted to be two things when I grew up: a teacher and a mother. Not only did I want to engage in those most honorable professions, I wanted to be good – no – FANTASTIC at each of them. In fact, prior to being blessed with any children at all I knew EXACTLY how I would be a prize-winning mother. I had seen so many examples of parenting behaviors that I vowed I would never do. I also had seen children doing things that I swore to myself, and regrettably, to others, MY children would NEVER do.

Ian Mutant Ninja Turtle

Ian Mutant Ninja Turtle

In retrospect, it is true that ignorance is bliss. I may not have committed any (or many) of the faults that I saw others perpetrate upon their children, as I watched with haughty disdain! However, I  was able to single-handedly impose a wide and vast variety of ill-conceived parenting techniques upon my mostly innocent (and that may be a generous descriptor) children! Although my memory is somewhat dulled, I believe that I can reach through the fog of time to retrieve a few.

I recall with a healthy measure of guilt, how cute I thought Ian looked when, at a children’s festival, he had his face painted to look just like one of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. Cute to be sure, until the colorful mask was removed and revealed an angry, red, near blistering rash remaining where the adorable mask had been.

Who wouldn't want to kiss him?

Who wouldn’t want to kiss him?

Or the time that one of the boys came home from a lovely day at kindergarten and reported that a little girl had kissed him on the playground. Rather than recognize the act for the wholesome one that it surely was, I experienced a surprising welling of indignation. I took that angelic boy’s face in my hands, and growled through my teeth that he could march right up to that little hussy the next day at school and tell her that no one, NO ONE kisses my boys except for me!

Angelic!!

Angelic!!

And then there was the day that I heard that phrase that I believe every child carries around in their back pocket, waiting for just the perfect time to deploy on their parent: “But Johnny’s mom is going to let him <insert a clearly dangerous activity of your choice here>.” My instinctive response went something like: “Well clearly, Johnny’s mother doesn’t love him as much as I love you!” Ouch!

And, of course, there was the time that, while interrogating ten-year-old Ian about his playmate’s accusation of Ian having used the “f” word, I actually handed the aforementioned cuss word to him on a silver platter. Ian was steadfastly denying that he had not uttered a bad word, in fact, he claimed not to even know what the “f” word was!

“Really,”  I said to Ian in disbelief! The child was in the fourth grade! He had ridden the school bus daily for the past two years with older children. Surely, he knew the word to which I was referring! “The “f” word, Ian! You know, the one that rhymes with truck! I can’t believe that you would use that word with your friend!” I exclaimed.

Ian’s brow furrowed deeply in thought. He never was really good at rhyming, or any of the phonological skills, for that matter. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “F*¢^? Is that the “f” word, Mom? F*¢^? Tell me, Mom, is that what it is? I thought that the “f” word was fart!”

Ugh! Each time that I committed on of these thoughtless acts upon the boys, I would cringe as the words would spill out and immediately wish them back into my undisciplined mouth.  And I would think, “Nice going, Lori, that puts you out of the running for Mother of the Year for another year.” Sometimes, I would remind myself that it might be a good idea to deposit another few hundred dollars into the account set up for future therapy. The kind that can repair the damage done by a mother careless with her words.

I’m not sure if the boys will read this post, and if they do, whether they will recall any of these poignant moments from their early childhood. Hopefully not. It seems that they have somehow been able to recall mainly the good stuff that happened during their younger years. It must be so – they’ve told me, via Hallmark, that I am the World’s Best Mother.

Though I’m not the epitome of mothering, I know a person who is. Watch for a post in a minute, and you can read all about her.