Sunday, October 18, 2009

Better than me

Such is the life of a freelance writer/adjunct writing instructor/fortysomething Mom, that nothing everything works out exactly (or even somewhat) as planned. A few months ago, my agent asked me to write a short piece for a family magazine's August issue. The magazine was devoting part of the issue to short essays by Moms. We were supposed to write about a moment when we had some memorable revelation about our children or child. I have had many great revelations about my children, but since I can basically only remember what happened to me last week, and was too tired to go through my kids' baby books to see when they had first (or last) surprised me, I wrote about a recent, written exchange I had had with my older son while he was on the bus. The editors at Real Simple didn't like what I wrote---or maybe they just liked other writers' moments of revelation better. In any case, here's mine:

I have spent most of my life as a mother trying to tell myself that it’s a good thing I don’t have girls.

We had our first boy the week OJ Simpson was acquitted; our second boy arrived four years later. Now my life is filled with mitts, baseball bats, hockey sticks, boxer shorts, jock straps, lengthy discussions about why the rapper TI landed in jail, dirty cleats, and little boys who shouldn’t be talking about boners but do. I have made my peace with my role as mother of boys, and yet, the yearning to get my nails done with a shorter version of me, tie a pink ribbon in a long lock of hair and purchase several packages of tiny pink tights for a dance recital, lingers. Who will visit me in the nursing home, I wonder? My grandmother had dementia and didn’t recognize any of us towards the end, but my mother dutifully visited her for years, and every week, sent out gently nagging emails, reminding all us grandchildren to go visit the woman who had been so good to us for so long.

Will my boys bother to do that for me when I can’t remember who they are?

Most of my friends with 13-year old girls confide how difficult their daughters have become. These girls have long hair, play soccer, text each other relentlessly and wonder when they’re going to get their periods. They tell their mothers they hate them and then they reach for their cell phones. They spend hours getting ready for bar mitzvahs and when they get to the parties, they make each other cry. When my friends tell me about how mean their girls are, I know exactly what they’re talking about. I was one of those vicious girls: The summer between seventh and eighth grades, I was so bitchy to the girls in my bunk that two of them went home. The girls’ parents were furious, and even though it was my fifth summer at that camp, the camp’s owners didn’t invite me back

Fast forward thirty years. My almost-13 year old son occasionally tells me he hates me, sometimes punches his little brother and spends a lot of time texting his friends but otherwise, he’s a pretty sweet kid. Still, he’s not a saint and the other morning he got mad at me because he was tired. He wanted to sleep in, miss the bus and have me drive him to school. His school is a forty-minute round trip drive. I had a busy morning ahead of me and was already planning to drive him two days later, so I said no. My older son got up, stomped onto the bus and wouldn’t let me kiss him good-bye.

That afternoon, I texted him on the bus. I said I was at speech therapy with his little brother, that our housekeeper would get him off the bus, and he should practice the piano when he got home.

“Txt me wen u b cum a good mother (ie drive yer sun 2 skool),” my older son typed.
“Okay, I’ll text you Friday morning.:)” I typed back.
“I’ll haf 2 4giv u b cuz smily faces are a key 2 lerning the txting language, and the fact tht ur even close 2 mastring it without b ing mi age iz incredibl.”

Well, that bone threw me. That my son could so quickly absolve me, and throw in a compliment to boot, was incredible. He is so much more decent at 13 than I ever was. Maybe he would get his brother to visit me in the nursing home after all.

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