In the ensuing haze of my 40th birthday (including the bi-monthly assumption that I’m dying of a myriad of exotic ailments including my fallback: brain tumor); I’m realizing that there is an enormous value to clearing the air.
As a 21st century woman we just can’t get it right. If we’re working we should be home raising the kids. If we’re home raising the kids, we’ve wasted our expensive educations. And there’s never enough time spent on spouses, aging parents, cleaning, or (God forbid) on scheduling a haircut.
So here’s my one-stop shop apology to the cosmos.
To other parents
I am exhausted by your collective excess: preschoolers with $150 shoes, first graders with cell phones, sixth graders regularly scheduled for mani/pedis, fifteen year olds with brand new cars, parents who show up to a disciplinary school meeting with the family attorney in tow, and homes where alcohol is provided to teenagers.
I fear that we are raising a generation of monsters. We have removed the fire from their bellies. These kids have been told so often that “it’s just a game” – that now they don’t care if they win or lose. Having their butts handed to them, these kids happily bounce off the field and ask “what’s for lunch”?
Do you remember demoralizing losses as a kid? Do you remember missing the spelling bee by one letter? How about being: envious, and sick, and mad that YOU didn’t get that trophy or the 1st place ribbon? Our kids don’t have that concern in a society where there are 13 levels of honorable mentions and everyone gets a participation trophy. Where is the incentive to improve?
Will they understand that the company bonus is not handed out to those who just show up? That sometimes you can work to your full potential and still not win? That there’s no such thing as fair?
And for God’s sake – if your teenager texts you from his bedroom for a snack, please, please smash the phone with a hammer.
To my children
You walk around with a chunk of my heart in your own chest; someday you’ll appreciate my efforts – and if you don’t, then, oh well – you’ll have plenty to talk about in therapy. I am, after all, a mean mom.
Life summary – take notes:
- We will be the only parents who say ‘No’ to a long list of activities otherwise known as : I’m the only one not allowed.
- There is no single event in life worth “dying for” emotionally. No boyfriend, spouse, job, house, friendship, or loss. The train is going to keep moving whether you’re on it or not. Grieve when you need to – then move on.
- When you leave for college – don’t come back. Get a job, find a roommate, struggle through grad school, drive crappy cars, eat Ramen noodles, and lose sleep over how on earth you’re going to pay this month’s rent. These are the things character is made of. Your father and I have plans for your bedrooms – so keep it moving.
- The world owes you NOTHING. I think you’re the greatest kids in the world – no one else cares. You will have to work and suffer to achieve. In the real world, you will not receive a “participation trophy” for cleaning your own toilet.
- Landlords, teachers, neighbors, and in-laws may suck. That’s life. Get used to dealing with difficult people. This might be the single most important life skill to cultivate.
To my son: You were my first and I adore you. You have more potential than any individual has the right to ask for so we’re going to push you until you almost break. Become the sort of man that adds to the world instead of taking: cook, volunteer, give of yourself – and for God’s sake hold the door open for a woman. Women want to be treated as equals, but civility and gallantry should not have to perish in the process. Oh, and don’t be a sheep.
To my daughter: You are a beautiful, compassionate, and creative soul. You are the light of my life every single day. Just remember that the only person that needs to appreciate you is you. Don’t look for the outside world to fill your soul – no one can do that but you. When you get married you won’t “become complete” – that’s nonsense. If Daddy and I have done our job, we will slingshot you into the universe a complete being. Oh, and don’t be a sheep.
To my mother
I sometimes forget that you have lived through a lifetime of pain, happiness, and regret. There aren’t many things you haven’t experienced. If I don’t say it often enough: I love you and I cherish your counsel.
Please stop referring to yourself as a burden. First of all it’s annoying and repetitive (which is double annoying). Secondly, I consider it a privilege to have you living in our home, with our children, as a part of our lives.
Yes, I consider it a responsibility to care for you – that’s how you raised us, remember? How many family members did we host on their immigration to the US from Cuba? Didn’t my grandmother live with us until the very end of her 100 year life?
It is an exceptional gift to have you shouting distance away. Because I know that the day will come when I will be on my knees asking for just another 5 minutes. And I won’t get it.
So until then – we’ll watch Spanish talk-shows (which are easily as horrifying as they should be), listen to a Rumba as we clean the house, and figure out new and exciting ways to torture my children (aka statements which begin: “Back in my day”).
I couldn’t do all of this without you.
To the universe (aka God, Allah, Buddha, Vishnu, et al)
Forgive me for wanting revenge on the 3rd grader who teased my kid – I continuously fantasize about “accidentally” pushing him down a flight of stairs. In my own defense, even in my fantasy – I promptly help the child up (doubles as plausible deniability – so, win-win).
My commitment is to live in gratitude and to focus on right here, right now – because that’s all I have control over anyhow.
Forgive me for forgetting that we are (every one of us) just one phone call away from our knees.