Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Can Only Be Free Range If You Are Too

Remember the MOMifesto? You can read it here so go for it, but I might end up alienating you in the way I probably alienated a lot of other people I know and maybe even ones I don't. That happens when a girl gets all uppity and mouthy-like. Oh well.

I've been thinking about that bitch session essay a lot over the last few days. I've been thinking about it because maybe I've been breaking my own code lately; I mean, the girls are all entwined in jump rope class and soccer after all and I even signed them up for a week of soccer camp. (The Giant Four Year Old, alas, is still getting his extracurricular kicks at the grocery store and in the Mobile Discovery Unit which also serves as my car.)

I've been thinking about it mostly after reading this article and all the opinionated opinions surrounding it and even the author's own rebuttal. Lenore's essay inspired more of the Mom on Mom pissing matches we are notoriously famous for, more of the Woman on Woman brawls that bring us down time and time again. (Fret not: I've resigned myself now to these "I really respect you, but you're totally fucking wrong and crazy and stupid and you are doing damage to your children" fights and I even find them halfway humorous so I won't get all ranty about it.)

The real juicy meat of this Helicopter Mom vs. Free Range Kid debate is not so much the ire it arouses, it's more about the way it can get a girl thinking. Especially if you're one like me. You know the kind: the loudmouth who proclaimed her angst with the kind of mothering that is less about mothering but more about running the business that is Mother. I said it before, and I'll say it again: my kids will never be my "job" and I don't and won't feel guilty about having interests and desires and conversations and needs and plans that don't always include them. But would I let my nine year old ride the subway alone? Who knows? We barely have buses in this small town and my kids think a taxi is like the coolest ride ever. Her kid and mine? Completely different worlds, completely different experiences.

But I do know this: Helicopter Mom I am not. I do not negotiate friendships or fights. I have never requested a teacher. I do not linger at any practice unless I am required to be there. I love drop-off parties and drop-off play dates and drop-offs of any kind. Yet, I don't think my kids are totally Free Range either. Granted, they are wee ones in the scope of things and I'd probably be arrested if I "freed" them as much as I might like to at times, but this whole hoohah is making me feel a little uncool. Because..well, I'm not hovering per se... I'm sort of hot-air ballooning above them. I don't have (nor want) the navigational skills those Heli-moms have to land squarely in any spot they choose whenever they choose but I'm up there nonetheless. And it makes me feel a tad hypocritical, all half-in, half-out the way I appear to be: wanting to go where the wind takes me but white-knuckling the tether to Earth.

I have to remind myself that just as my kids can't learn how to handle a bossy, bitchy friend if I whip out the Mom card at each infraction, they can't learn how to cross the street by themselves if I insist on holding their hand every time. Right? So eight year old B has walked to school since second grade with a pal, all of four blocks and without a cell phone (like some her friends). The Giant Four Year Old roams the 'hood now, at least in the perimeter I allow (a square block, no crossing streets). And while I know they won't be pro soccer players, I am also pretty sure they won't be pro jump ropers either so clearly I am not "training" them for anything other than you know, growing up.

But there's a playground half way between here and school and I've only once allowed B and her friend to scooter there alone, and I did it under protest. Which irritates and sort of shames me.

When I was 8, almost 9, I rode my bike at least a mile each way to the beach club my parents belonged to. I snapped my towel in the rat-trap and zoomed off for the day, without sunscreen (or more importantly, anyone to apply it) and without - gasp - a helmet. I probably didn't even know my own phone number. But herein lies the rub: there were A LOT of us back then riding our bikes to some place or some event for the day. We were the numbers that added up to the safety that our own mothers relied on. If you wiped out on your bike, the fastest kid would book to the closest house to find the closest available mom to take care of it. And we did wipe out. And we did encounter creeps. But we never got seriously hurt, not ever, because we were a posse (that sometimes included kids we didn't even like) that our moms made us walk/ride/play with. It was safety in freakin' numbers.

I can send my kids into the backyard to play (because I do believe their own imaginations with grass and pebbles is better than about anything I can pay for), but it's a lot less fun if there aren't some other hoodlums to imagine with. I can let them go down the street to the park, but it's a lot less safe if they don't have a buddy to go with.

If it was safe enough for us then shouldn't it be safe enough for her now? Be safe enough for your kids? The only bigger threat in the world today (besides, you know, terrorism, global warming, George Bush) is probably the fact that there are more and bigger cars on the road (you gotta get those kids to their activities somehow). Stranger danger? Not so much; most kids abducted are taken by someone they know. So what, pray tell, am I, are we so afraid of?

I can only be Free Range if you are too.

The more kids that are pulled off the street from playing and riding bikes and starting ball games, the more dangerous the street is for the kids who are left there to play and ride bikes and start ball games.

Tomorrow if the sun is out, I'll let some more air into the balloon, because, if I am using this metaphor correctly, that might be the thing I need to bust through this irrational fear. But I'm also going to need you. I'm gonna need you to strap on your kids' helmets and let 'em ride. I'm gonna need you to just let 'em go even it's down the block. I'm gonna need you to let them traipse across your neighbors' yards to get to the house where the Sardines game is being played. And I'm gonna need you to shout with me from your own perch in the clouds (where maybe you hover too), I'm gonna to need you to shout really loud so that they can all hear us, "You go! You just go!"

They'll come back! And if we're lucky, they'll also grow up and move out and get to write snarky, bossy blogs like this.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh No You Didn't

After nearly 12 hours traveling, including a three hour delay in one of the most chaotic airport hubs in the country (hollaback Atlanta), we landed (with a serious ass thud and a skidding screech to a halt about which the flight attendant announced, "well, we made it") at almost 10pm.

Since thousands of flying dollars gets you about twelve peanuts, a half a diet coke and a seat, I had thoughtfully nourished my children beforehand with healthy airport fare (ie: greasy pizza and cranberry juice), kept them moving through Terminal B as well as I could (jumping jacks, mobile I Spy, "walks") and out of the way of weary travelers. We didn't even sit in the seats at the gate but instead camped out on the floor where their card games and cars would be less of a "nuisance." I gave the evil eye to the restless Giant Four Year old when he dared kick the seat in front of him once. I pointed my finger (from across the aisle) and added a stern "no more of that please mister" when he did it twice. On the third time, the scolding piss-off from the lady so offended by his fidgeting shamed that poor dude into submission.

I wanted to pour my stale bottle of water on her head. Could she not see we were doing the very best we could here? Could she not handle two harmless little jolts? Three?

There were no more kicks, no screaming, no fights. There were a couple of misfires in the bathroom (it was bumpy) but all in all, I would travel with those three shorties any day and I dare anyone who traveled with us to seriously complain: white-haired lady in seat 27E, I'm talking to you. Even when I was a kidless grrl flying across the country with black nail polish and a hangover, I never once glared at some frustrated kid or his stressed out parents. I didn't even want kids then and was pretty sure I was too cool to have any, but I never thought to feel anything but I guess pity and a touch of embaressment for the poor people dripping in sweat trying to wrestle some exhausted kid into silence.

So when I got off the plane, a little sweat drenched myself, I navigated us four through the crowds to baggage claim and nearly lost it when I saw this:

I used to be "just a mom" but now I am "just a mom with the bullhorn-headed kids." Seriously, fuck you. Next time, I'm gonna let 'em run the aisles, I'm gonna let 'em sing Scooby Doo songs at the top of their lungs and I'm gonna drink a forty from a brown paper bag with my own noise canceling headphones. 27E? She will long for the day when he harmlessly kicked the back of her chair three freaking times. LONG for it.

So there.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Everyone Can Touch Our Noodle

Vacation day three. Or is it four? Whatevs.

The kids have been mostly great but the fancy-pants pool club has me kinda stressed out. I am doing that awesome whisper/scream (the kind that implies you are calm yet stern) with a rapid fire list of demands kids hate: no running, don't drink the pool water, don't blow your nose in the pool, your dolphin noises are wonderful but could you please make them quieter, pull up your pants BEFORE you leave the bathroom, no more fart jokes, no more throwing flip flops at your brother.

Ah, the brother. The Giant Four Year Old is like a soaking wet bull in an elitist country club shop. His favorite holler in the pool, despite my nearly constant protests (for obvious reasons) is "help me I can't breathe I'm dying" about which I have now twice said to concerned onlookers, "he's ok, he just has an active imagination."

Mostly he just monitors the use of our pool toys. Should any poor kid dare touch our prescious crap, he alerts them (and everyone else in ear shot) that THOSE ARE OURS! And so I find myself in the awkward position of whisper-screaming unfortunate statements like the one referenced in the title. Because in case these strangers don't know, we are nothing if not good sharers.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Soccer started. I'm only assisting coaching this year, which is an easier role for me and all involved really. For one, it's easier on the already contentious relationship I have with Daughter # 1 these days. Her complete rightness about everything (are all third grade girls like this?) doesn't jive so well with my coachiness. And I've sneaked R on the team too, at least for practices, though she's about two years too young. No one notices much because like the Giant Four Year old, she is Giant too.

Today was the first game. Vacation is underway and we did not have enough kids to field a team, so R got to suit up and play for real. These seven girls played their little asses off for 45 minutes, without a break, and there were no complaints and no meltdowns and damn, if we didn't almost win.

My daughters played right forward and right defense. They made some passes to one another that made me teary -- not because their moves were so skillful or great (hardly), but because these were the same two girls who had been nastily competitive all week. In fact, I have never known them to be so unlovable to one another as they have been these last seven days: every opportunity to one-up was taken, every turned back of mine was a chance to stick out a tongue.

But here they were, a soccer ball between them, playing and working together with glances and nods that added up to some seriously decent plays. They were like a tiny secret team on the Team.

And tonight when I got home from dinner with That Man, the babysitter reported how tired (aka good) they were and how they were all (including the boy child) asleep in the same bed together. Like kittens.

God, I love game days.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Keely vs. Sheep

That Man sent me this vid from a co-worker of her baby daughter.

I love babies when they ass kick sheep, or anything else really. When Keely is done growd up, she'll have proof of how fierce she is.

Forward this to your friends (use that little envelope with an arrow below). 'Cause who isn't ready for this kind of rumble?

Countdown to Mayhem: Tips Needed

On Monday, I will board a plane (and then another) with three short drunk people ALONE. It's definitely countdown to mayhem but also countdown to panic attack #5637. Tick. Tock.

Naturally, I am thrilled for seven days of 80 degrees and the pool and the endless beach and the blooming flowers. (Have I mentioned my resentment of trees in New England this time of year? Every morning I give them a look, a kind of come hither glance, and still, no buds.) Plus two trips in one year? Apologies to Mike Huckabee, but that's like a stinkin' miracle in my world. I'm lucky, lucky, lucky -- and have a father willing to split the airfare. Yay for Dads!

It's the getting there and back that makes me queasy. Last year, our 4 hour trip home took like, ummmm, a lifetime, which might help you understand my anxiety.

I've been working on the carry-on bag and so far it's stuffed with chunky crayons, a magnetic drawing board (mini Spiderman version: thank you Target dollar section), one Nintendo DS (thank you Santa), paper, books, and a disposable camera. I'd throw some booze in there but I'm pretty sure that counts as "liquid" by airport security, to which I might argue: not "liquid" folks, more like magic elixir. I kid, I kid: hootch is for grown-ups only. That's exactly what I tell the Giant Four Year Old when he cracks open my beers.

So, savvy travelers, what else will help us through a car ride to the airport, two flights, one lay over, the rental car reservation desk, and an hour plus drive to finish off the journey? Any tips to get me through this
a) sane,
b) not in the news for losing a child,
c) not in the news for yelling at a child (more likely)
and d) so that in the end I can pat myself on the back for my excellent, superb, well above average organizational and mothering skills?

Baby Couture & My Beautiful Mommy

This kind of rendered me speechless.

But this did me in for real.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I cut my hair - two and half inches -- and got the grays shined up and blow dried and straightened.

Hasn't been one person I've seen today who hasn't noticed. Hasn't been one person who saw me and didn't mention how nice my hair looked. Not one.

I can take no credit of course; this blow dry is the work of someone else. I could never do this myself. But what lies beneath all these luscious comment? It's the fact that I usually look like a hot mess.

I know.

Today was a good day, a good hair day at least.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So... You Have Cancer Again

That's pretty much how the conversation started with my cousin.

Sooo... we're back with this fuckity-fuck crap again huh? Back to this shit? Back to small talk about drugs we love-slash-hate and about lame (totally not-fierce) hospital decor. We'll be talking about the Sox or Britney soon enough to make sure everyone else knows we can still talk bullshit, no matter what. Back to being who we were a year and two weeks ago, and who it seems we are now.

She says to me, "So, my parents just left. I am at work -- you know, pretending that everything is normal and that I didn't just get a large dose of what I like to call Hitchcock's poison into my body. I know what I will need from you, if and when the time comes and it gets harder: I need you to be you, and step into the role that we both have to play. The strong, mother to all, everything will be great role..."

Yeah, I know that role I think, just like she knows her role: the punk rock, in your face, fuck cancer girl, I am bald and beautiful girl, the one who holds your hand as much as you are holding hers, who holds it longer and tighter to make sure that you know: she's OH KAY.

We have our roles, she and me.

Together we share this (secret) comraderie to make sure things are okay for everyone else. It is not selfish. It's because we both know that when we do it -- it makes things better for her. So we'll do it again, because it works. And when the big facade fades, she always knows where to go to cry.

She is only 23 but I learn a thing or two from her.

She says, "I think we know the routine," and I answer her invisibily with a nod.

"We get thru this shit," she says.

And so we do. So we will.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good Mother Club

Just to make absolutely sure that no "Good Mother Club" existed, I googled it and this was the first image on the list.

Which makes me feel ridiculously, entirely better.

X-Ray 20/20 Hindsight

Six weeks ago, give or take, R fell onto her forearms. No one knows how or where exactly, except that it was in Florida while a parent was not present and likely from a golf cart. There were shenanigans involved for sure and thus no confessors, but there were also no tears and so the entire incident was filed away, and by all involved, forgotten.

Except that she's complained about the arm ever since then, though sporadically. It's her left and she's a righty, but it hurts when she hurls baseballs or shoots pucks or gets nailed in the sore spot with a soccer ball. It hurt for a while when she picked up heavy items with her sore arm, or when she gripped something too hard. She never woke from sleep in pain, but it was a nagging complaint, on her physically and on me and That Man mentally: what to do?

School nurse confirmed that tendonitis was highly unlikely in a child her age (6) and suggested ice and ibuprofen, which I did when she would mention it was feeling especially bad and also stopped moving long enough to do so. It never seemed to effect her energy level or willingness to engage in sports or rough house play, but I did notice that sometimes, she seemed to be defending it when she ran or jumped or threw or shot. Maybe she was doing it subconsciously, just as I was able to see it, wonder about it, and move on.

Finally, today the suns and moons aligned and her "maahhhmmm, my arm hurts" happened while in the car and near the doctor's office. Short visit, quick yet thoughtful exam, and off we were sent to the hospital for x-rays. He said something about "making sure it's not a zebra," which maybe has some medical implication but more likely I think it was his way of saying, if it quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck...

I am also pretty sure he said, "six weeks? really?"

Tomorrow we get the results. I am as close as a woman in possible denial can be that it is not a fracture; I am leaning toward ligament injury or something like that. Or really bad growing pains? In one arm? But if, IF her arm is broken, even a little bit? Well then.

Well then. Do they flog mothers like me for offenses like this? Do I get blackballed from the Good Mother club? (Is there a Good Mother Club? I seriously hope not.) But really now, I mean: arrrgh. Ugh. Oops.

Could I, could I have really missed a broken arm?

Best Game Ever

ImprovEverywhere strikes again. Happy day after opening day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jump Rope

I am signing up my girls for a Jump Rope class.

My father, the atheist, who has just re-read the New Testament (for kicks), thinks this might be a sign of The End; this and the third graders plotting their teacher's murder. Since I don't remember anything of the New Testament and as I am the only one who hasn't heard the story of the murderous third grade gang, I guess I'll just go with him.

It IS pathetic that there a classes for jump rope. Didn't we all just learn those games in the school yard or in the driveway? Was I supposed to teach that...too? I can hold the rope for them, and they can hold it for each other, but there are rarely enough kids around in my kids' backyard to make these basic games happen for real. Too many of them are too busy with classes of other kinds. So, what's next? Will there be semesters to teach Pickle, Spud, or Statue?

My girlfriend says of the Jump Rope class, "Maybe they'll bring what they learn to the playground."

Maybe they will and that's what sold me on the idea entirely.

Not to mention, I can't teach jump rope. I demonstrated it to my girls about 6 months ago and thought I might have a heart attack. I thought I might lose one or both of my boobs and felt my brain ACTUALLY SMASH into my skull.

NEVAH AGAIN, I said, NEVAH. This is the sport of breast-less children.

I do however have some interest in renewing my love of Chinese Jump Rope: the extra big stretchy cord we wrapped around our ankles and a partner’s while a third “jumper” engaged in elaborate tangles, getting caught up and then escaping in one wickedly cool flow.

That's the cerebral kind of jump rope I'm game for now, with less threat of boob loss. My flat-chested (for now) beauties, those backyard girls: I'm giving them double-dutch.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

For That Man Far Away

I remember.