There were so many things to think about this summer before THIS ^ occurred. “THIS” being the life-altering event of moving my first-born child and only daughter, Ryder, out of our home and into her dorm room. Out-of-state. Six hours away. In a much bigger city. Where she only knows a few other students, and none of them particularly well. I told myself it was exciting, which it is, and that she was ready, which I truly think she is. But I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was.
I found plenty of distractions. In June I had to take Ryder to orientation at TCU. There was no reason to think about her leaving until she had been oriented, right? And then not long after that she left for a 10-day trip to Italy. No reason to stress while she’s relaxing in the Mediterranean. I could do that when she gets back….might as well relax too! Four days after her return from Italy was our family vacation to Florida, and we took two of her closest friends with us. It seemed only logical to enjoy them & not fret about how much I was going to miss them. But then DANG! It seemed we had barely UNpacked our suitcases and we were busy packing big Sterilite containers and making sure we had duvets and pillows and necessities purchased. It sneaks up faster than a tornado on a trailer park. Now that I’ve been through it, I don’t think there’s any way to really prepare for the myriad emotions that you’re going to feel.
Ever the planner, I had assumed that with a move-in date of August 10th, we would leave on the 9th. Well, be warned that those childhood friendships grow stronger in the months leading up to college, when the notion of existing without each other becomes real & they become very, very hard for your child to leave. I got that because I, too, chose a university away from all of my high school friends and I set off on my own, not knowing a soul in the town that would be my college home for four years of my life. If your child has friendships that move them this much emotionally, thank God for that. I missed my friends terribly and when my daughter said, “I don’t want to go until the day I’m supposed to move in,” I understood. I also thought it would be a chance to go on ahead & spend a night alone with Chuck to sort of decompress from the stress & drama of packing and getting ready to leave. And be warned, with girls, there is drama in getting ready to leave! Chuck & I loaded the Suburban to maximum capacity and headed for Ft. Worth on Friday. Ryder spent her last night at home, surrounded by her friends, who made sure she was up at dawn and stood in our driveway as she pulled away. I will be forever grateful to them for this & I think it was the perfect end to her summer because we, her family, will be in her life on a consistent basis for the rest of her life and those friends will head off in separate directions, making it harder to see each other as often. I love them all as my own & I cried myself to sleep those last two (or three) nights, thinking that late-night pow-wows on my bed and girls strewn all over my living room on Saturday and Sunday mornings would be coming to an end, or at least be less frequent. I was able to spend a wonderful spring break with Ryder and her friends and enjoy a vacation to Dallas with them this summer and I will always cherish those trips.
The tension of move-in day was eased by the fact that TCU is a small campus with a very organized and dedicated group of people who made the transition from home to college life as easy as possible. A friend of Ryder’s who was already at TCU had introduced her to her roommate and they had been communicating via social media since March. There was absolutely no tension when we met – both of our families seemed to mesh immediately & getting their room set up was so enjoyable. I think she’s off to a great start. We took her to dinner that first night and she fell asleep in the booth at Macaroni Grill. Afterward, we went on a whirlwind shopping trip to Target & back to the room. She bid us goodbye without a tear and we headed back to our hotel, leaving her to sleep in her new digs.
We walked into our hotel that night & got on the elevator with a family who appeared to be leaving a wedding in one of the ballrooms. There was Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Dad & a little girl about three with short bobbed brown hair and blue eyes, eerily reminiscent of Ryder at the same age. She was twirling in her fancy dress and ballet flats and expressing joy at getting to ride on the elevator to the 4th floor. We were admiring her cuteness & sharing that we had just dropped our daughter off for her first night at college. As we got off the elevator the little girl got off and skipped ahead of us all, soaking in the wonders of a nice hotel as if it were her castle and she the princess who lived there. As she got smaller and further away, we approached our room and I slid the key in the slot, took a deep breath & accepted the fact that I would end my night with yet more tears, this time a mix of sadness for what I was going to miss & joy for what wonderful things I know are ahead.
Earlier this year, I drafted a list of 44 things to do before I turn 44 years of age. That happens on December 14, 2013. Just a few short months, really. I promised an update at some point along the way, primarily as an incentive to make myself accountable. I think blogging it helped motivate me tremendously.
1. Try 10 new recipes. – I’ve been doing a really good job on this one. Banana pudding, easy lasagna, ebelskivers, hummus, etc. I’ll be at 10 before I know it. Then I’ll pick a day and share the recipes.
2. Complete 6 needlework projects. (Finished one today!) – I’m not sure I’ll make it to six but I finished the one mentioned, have all but the background done on one and have gotten pretty far into another. I also did a rather small one for Ryder and it just occurred to me that I never gave it to her 🙂 So yeah, maybe I will get to 6!
3. Be a more engaged parent. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the room but not tuned in. I need to improve this. – This one is hard for me now that the kids are older. They don’t want read to, they have no interest in my hobbies and I don’t play video games. But I’ve been playing a few games and making a concerted effort to listen in a more intent manner when they want to engage in conversation. I’m easily distractible, which doesn’t help. But I’m making improvements.
4. Have a professional massage. Or 2!
5. Volunteer at least 60 hours. – Getting there!
6. Paint 2 things at the Painted Pig.
7. Buy a pair of cowboy boots.
8. Visit my daughter at college! – We just dropped her off last weekend and have plans to attend family weekend in September, so barring something unexpected, I’ll easily manage to meet this goal.
9. YOLO board in Watercolor, FL on Hwy. 30-A. – We did this on our vacation in July and it was a great experience. I want a YOLO board now and I want to find a place to enjoy the sport locally. Success! CHECK!
10. Learn to make a great chocolate cake.
11. Successfully make “Cupcake Cafe” buttercream.
12. Design a crewel stocking pattern.
13. Save $1000 using coupons and rebates. – This is not going so hot. Need to step it up!
14. Blog photo tips on a regular basis.
15. Paint entire kitchen white and then go from there with kitchen decor….
16. Buy rainchains for the corners of our house.
17. Re-do/paint our front porch.
18. Make peace, or attempt to, with someone I don’t get along with. – (I did this. It’s overrated.) – CHECK!
19. Learn to use Netflix via the PS3 without the assistance of someone 13 or under. Or Chuck. – Wyatt pointed out that it’s just as easy if not more so, to use Netflix on my laptop so I guess I’ll consider this one a CHECK!
20. Climb Pinnacle Mountain again. The hard side.
21. Take a vacation with just Chuck. – It’s scheduled for Labor Day weekend to celebrate 20 years! Yay! Fairmont Dallas, here we come!
22. Visit Eric & Stephanie in St. Louis! – We had a fantastic time even though it was a whirlwind trip to St. Louis and we only had time for lunch at Pappy’s Smokehouse. But the food and company was great. I had not seen Stephanie since she moved to Kentucky in 2nd grade! And Eric since he left in junior high. GREAT time! CHECK!
23. Weigh 135. – I’m steadily heading toward this goal but need to step it up if I do it before I’m 44.
24. Rewatch all Seinfeld episodes. – I bought season one to start. May not get through ALL of them but you never know.
25. Read 10 books. – I’ll easily reach this goal!
26. Paint the living room.
27. Buy a desk for myself. – Did it at IKEA when we took Ryder to orientation at TCU. I had to compromise on color but it’s grown on me. CHECK
28. Compile dad’s Vietnam pictures into a book for him. (I guess after posting this it won’t be a surprise.)
29. Open an ETSY shop.
30. Camp with Tcheanina and all our boys. – The summer has kinda of gotten away from us. Didn’t realize how much other travel would consume my time. But I haven’t completely ruled it out!
31. Start my “other” blog.
32. Photograph 10 dogs.
33. Draw & paint for fun. On a regular basis.
34. Launch a black & white division of Buttry Photography. – In progress
35. Organize my home completely. Room by room. Closet by closet.
36. Keep a “good things” jar. – CHECK, or in progress, anyway!
37. Visit Albert Pike Recreation Area for the first time since the flood.
38. Frame my needlework projects. – I’ve had lots and lots of these done! Yay!
39. Walk the dog more. – Ummmm……
40. Have another trip with just my mom. – She went to orientation with Ryder and me so if we don’t fit in another, I’ll count that. Had a great time.
41. See 5 movies at the theater with Chuck. – Working on this one too. Have seen a couple of them. The Vow. The one about magic. Working on this one too.
42. Learn to make really good & pretty sugar cookies.
43. Keep an art journal. – CHECK, in progress, but not as much as I’d like to.
44. Practice random acts of kindness. 26 at least. For Newtown, CT. – I’ve done a lot of these. Very proud of myself. Anonymous, when possible and gives you a great feeling.
Some of you are contemplating having children, adopting children or, if you’re exceptionally desperate, perhaps kidnapping a couple of infants. (Take them back please; someday they’ll be hormonal and you’ll be searching for the address to return them to on anywho.com, and, besides, who needs a felony?)
Disclaimer: I know some of you are struggling with being unable to have children and I’m in no way attempting to minimize that desire that burns within you to be a parent. It’s real and it’s wonderful and it exists. And more than anything, I hope your dream comes true. And most of that dream will be WONDERFUL! Just don’t act like being shat upon at 3 a.m. is a moment you were waiting for & will cherish forever. You may laugh heartily later but you won’t want to repeat it. Now…..
Potential parents need beneficial advice, lest you think it’s all rainbows and unicorns. It’s not. Sometimes it’s poop explosions, vomit and bloody noses that never seem to end. It’s baseballs-through-windows & broken limbs & stitches & Sharpie on couches. It’s “everyone-but-me-has-a-smartphone-and-I-might-as-well-be-exiled-to-Tanzania.” (Neither of our boys, 11 & 13 have them. They’re still here, functioning fairly normally – the boys, that is.) As much as you plan to ‘cherish every moment’, no one enjoys a stream of pee in their ear canal or shit smeared on their brand new white J. Crew tee. I know this. Don’t try to sell me on that bullshit. You’re exasperated. You laugh about it later but you’re exasperated!
We need to get to a point in our society where we are honest about the reality of parenting and what it involves. We need to understand that some of the people who have had children and melted down under the stress were simply not prepared. A lot of us weren’t. I’ve melted down A LOT! When reading two freaking chapters on “What To Look For When You INTERVIEW Your Pediatrician”*, nowhere does the article say, “Be sure you find out which of his buddies was a psychiatrist because you’re going to need some scripts for yourself before your kid starts on whole milk.” But it should.
No one is honest with parents-to-be. No one tells them that it’s ok to complain. No one told tells them that it’s not going to kill Little Johnny or Sara’s self esteem if they’re disrespectful to you and you tell them they’re being a miserable little asshat and that their game controllers will indeed reside in Dad’s office drawer for a week. As a society we went through decades of being told that we need to build up our children’s self-esteem and let them know that they can do anything they set their minds to. There’s some truth to this. Help your kids find their talents and encourage them, yes. I’m not sure how many of you watch American Idol auditions but sometimes we definitely need to tell our kids they can’t even carry a tune in the cargo hatch of a Range Rover and should suggest that maybe they pursue being a sandwich artist at Subway while letting better talents and abilities emerge. (Back off! I know there are wonderful, pride-filled sandwich artists out there. Love me a turkey on wheat! NOT HATING.) Maybe your husband was a great athlete, but if little Tommy isn’t loving going to the ballpark, he might be happier playing chess, or golf or making movies. Be big enough and brave enough to let him. And to let go of your dreams for him. Pretty sure neither of my boys is going to be a professional dancer or golfer so why would I push them that direction? Guide your kids. Don’t live through them. It’s ok to quit soccer or football. Or cheerleading. This is hard but no one tells you it’s coming.
The self-esteem movement is part of the undoing of America that we’re seeing. It’s all about ME. Oh trust me, my kids can be “all about me” quite often and I tried NOT to parent that way. They get on my last nerve not considering others feelings before their own a LOT of the time. I’ve tried and preached and gotten angry and I’m admitting that I would love to change that trait but in all honesty, I don’t know what to change. I’m doing the best I can, praying, trying to be a great example and hoping maturity will help. We live in an age with so many outside influences that our parents and grandparents had no concept of. No, it’s not all happiness and family dinners. They aren’t all going to make good, or God forbid, PERFECT, grades. You shouldn’t expect them to. Loosen the fuck up. Forgetting a thank you is NOT the end of the world.
Baby showers and presents and shower cake and decorating nurseries are exciting & nice…..I’m sorry, I meant “finger sandwiches & hor d’oeuvres”. We can’t have sugar and gluten-filled cakes and punch at baby showers anymore! Harrows! Then that baby could be born with a BMI of 35! Don’t even get me started on freaking PUSH PRESENTS. Gag. (I think when I birthed Ryder, Chuck let me watch “ER” instead of the Cardinal game. That was my present. And it was the episode where a lady died in labor. Thanks, hon.) Pregnancy, birth & delivery all seems exciting and it IS but I’m thinking this dose of advice might be helpful in list form. It’s not what people (except me) write in your little book at the gluten-free shower. Nap when the baby naps! Make your own baby food! It’s so easy and so cheap! Just tell him you’ve already been up with the baby twice – he’ll NEVER know! ** And this handy, numbered list will be much easier to refer back to by number when you’re railing on me in the comment section:
1. Your kids & you will only come down with ‘projectile vomiting/simultaneous poop shooting illnesses’ while your husband is enjoying his business meeting at the Boca Raton Resort and Club drinking martinis brought to him by a lovely waitress named Fawn after he finishes his exhilarating game of golf on the links.
2. You will at some time in your child-rearing years wonder if medication would help both you and your child. Sometimes it helps your child. It most always helps you. There are, in fact, two kinds of people in this world: those who are properly medicated & those who should be. This I know for sure, OPRAH, so shut up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’d medicate your gall bladder if it wasn’t working properly. Or your heart. Our ancestors used medication too, in the form of bourbon and martinis. Our options are much safer. You don’t have to feel like the world is closing in on you and it doesn’t have to be “just” post-partum depression or baby blues. It can be when they’re 14 and want to go to the mall but they don’t have the right bra at that mall (because there are no visible tits on your child to begin with) so they need to go to Target and while they’re at Target they find three shirts they need and they have to have all three and you are such a BITCH because you set a budget of $30 and how is she ever going to not be laughed at when she goes to the PARTY & in that 30 seconds in Aisle 2, YOU JUST RUINED HER LIFE! It can be then.
3. Some of your child’s grandparents will possibly drive you stark-raving mad. Because they will either tell you how to raise your child LIKE THEY DID decades before OR, EVEN WORSE, they will give this little smirky look like John Boehner gives Obama when he sits behind him during the State of the Union address & disagrees, which, much like with the grandparents, is every other sentence. That look from grandma means, “Oh, you think you’re being so progressive making those babies do things like sit in car seats and not snack on raw weiners but YOU SURVIVED & YOU’RE PERFECT!” Which ultimately means, “Look, America! *I* raised perfection & my kid doesn’t measure up!” This will anger you to no end and I applaud you for not smacking them. This is one of the toughest things I’ve dealt with as a parent.
DISCLAIMER #2: My dad and stepmom have never done this. They may have disagreed a couple times with how we raised our kids but never raised an eyebrow and only gave advice when asked. Imagine that – the ones that don’t express judgment get asked 🙂
4. Your baby may not like breastfeeding. You may not like breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not the PERFECT food. The food that works for YOUR child is the PERFECT food. My daughter liked her bottles ice-cold, like most people like their beer. A doctor told me I was crazy to feed her like that. It could be traumatic on her infant stomach. I told her to come over at 3 a.m. & help feed her. That’s traumatic. PERIOD. Cold ones, it will be if it makes her happy. Seriously though, go to a playground, ANY playground, right now and tell me which kids were breastfed and which weren’t. (No fair, naming the 6 year old who is latched on to his mom lying across the park bench. That’s a give-a-way. And if you’re that mom, don’t be surprised when a line forms. Kids are curious. That shit looks appealing. To kids AND grown men. Save that for your home quarters, please.) But if breastfeeding is not for you, who cares? I just wanted one person to tell me, “This is not necessary, you know. Just quit.” And finally someone did. With Wyatt, I nicely said, “Please don’t tell me to breastfeed. I’m very comfortable with my decision.” With Brooks, I said, “Honey, did you pack that Koo-Aid here for junior in the diaper bag?” There are no concrete rules with child-raising, except maybe to be honest with your pregnant friends, relatives, daughters, etc. Don’t judge them. Some things are just a personal choice and they’ve become a needless political platform. We literally have organized groups that harass women who do not breastfeed. I was a victim, practically stalked by a LaLeche woman. I lived in Colorado at the time. You have no business telling someone to nurse their baby anymore than they have any business telling you whether you should wipe your ass front to back or vice versa.
5. People will judge how you educate your child. There are so many ways TO educate your child. Not every type of education is right for every child. Our daughter did public education, K-12, though aspects of it were hard for me to watch. It was her choice to stay and she did fine and is now off at a small university. It might be right for your child. Our sons go to a private Christian school because we wanted more individualized attention, staff & faculty that see individual differences in children and teach accordingly, friendly faces that act happy to see us & our kids instead of acting angry & exasperated. We definitely LOVE less bureaucracy. At this school, I’ve never felt a need to request a teacher, never seen a child grabbed by his arm and jerked, and the administration KNOWS my family. I couldn’t tell you who the public LRSD administrators are on any given day and they certainly don’t know me. It bothers me that people who have NEVER set foot on my kids’ campus judge it based on rumor & biased articles and have never experienced how it really feels. That’s unfortunate. It might be right for your child. Some people have kids who thrive through homeschooling or online home education. This would be absolutely no fun for either me or my kids. I do not have it in me. But my friends who do it? I have them up on a pedestal with the inventor of the donut and people who can paint awesome portraits. ULTIMATE ADMIRATION. Maybe that’s right for your child. But when you’re pregnant, no one tells you what a huge part of your life your child’s education will be beyond being sure they advise you to buy your home in a good school district.
6. Sit down for this one. You kids will hit adolescence. They will lie. (Yep.) They will connive. (Yep.) They will annoy the goddang hell out of you to do the silliest shit. I personally would do high school over twice before I’d do 4-6th grade again with my daughter and sons. They are hormonal. They have no clue who they are or what they want. They hate you because it’s cool to hate you. Until they need you. Then it’s cool, until they walk out the door and tell their friends with hair flip and eyeroll how much they HATE you. (They will walk out the door, but bonus to you for your childrearing in their formative years if they shut it behind them.) But wait, none of their friend’s parents want to drive so you take the kids everywhere and pick them up. The up-side to that? You know where they are and what they’re doing. It’s a pain but also, it’s time with those kids you can’t replace. I cherish it now. Oh, and sometime in middle school, girls will want to dye their hair. You’ll try to fight this. I finally gave in.
“So, dye your hair.”
“Sure. Dye your hair.”
They dyed their hair. They dyed my hair, sink and walls too but it comes off. There’s still a spot of dye on the ceiling but it just makes me smile when I see it. They came out and showed me their dyed hair. I couldn’t tell they dyed their hair but I said it looked beautiful, because in my eyes it looked absolutely perfect. It will pass. It will be hell and you will want to sell them, hide from them (done that – Priceline is great for this), and then damn if you don’t look forward to the happy moments again. During adolescence they are few. BUT THEY ARE THERE!
7. YOU WILL BE JUDGED! Kids will talk to you like shit at this age and you will have other parents & grandparents butt in and tell you how to raise them or how “their kids never talk to them like that — not more than once!” (I call bullshit). Sometimes we don’t discipline our kids immediately in public. It depends on the circumstances, severity and kid. It’s really no one’s business. Maybe when the offender gets home the video games are gone for three weeks. Maybe we tie their hands behind their back at the table and gag them til we’re finished with our dinner.*** Whatever works. 🙂 Don’t let people’s opinions of you affect how YOU raise your kids. Quite frankly sometimes we joke with our kids in a way that is horrifying to adults (sarcasm, advanced humor) & they stare as though we have them farmed out to be extras in porn or allow them to open for Andrew Dice Clay. Expect judgment like this. I didn’t see it coming and it was hard to cope with.
8. The children will break 3/4 of everything you own in some manner. They won’t care. If you so much as chip the corner off one of their Legos by stepping on it with your boot, you, however, will be subject to severe sanctions involving super glue (that after decades on the market, still fails to attach anything to anything except your finger to your lip) or searching for “tiny pain-in-the-ass goblet from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Lego set – MINT condition” on eBay. Around 5th grade you grow a pair and throw all evidence of that shit in the trash when you break it, buried inside an empty can of vegetables that they would never touch. Hint: They can see them in the clear vacuum canisters 🙂
9. My final reality, because I’m getting sleepy is that when I had kids, I expected, when they were teens, to be arguing over curfew, yelling “TURN THAT MUSIC DOWN”, checking for alcohol, dealing with sneaking out, you know, ALL the stuff you see in movies and on tv when teenagers are referenced. Now, I’m not stupid enough to think my kid didn’t ever do anything wrong (BAHAHAHA) but for the most part, I think she and her friends have been honest about having designated drivers. She was pretty darn dependable about texting when she stayed over with friends. We gave her freedom, put some trust out there and she stayed out of trouble, or, as a former teen, myself, I know that at least she was smart enough not to get caught….You’re probably expecting the worst during the teen years but I will forever value my dad’s theory to give me freedom and trust me until I screwed up. Thank God speeding tickets were not considered screw-ups.
I could preach on, I’m sure, but just know that parenting is an amazing joy ride fraught with laughter, tears, frustration, anger, exhaustion, mass amounts of cash, pride, passion, and sometimes even boredom. Some days you won’t like each other and THAT IS OK. Some days you’ll lose your temper and THAT IS OK. Most of us do the best we can and for the majority of us, THAT IS OK.
* I just asked my pediatrician if he takes AETNA. You may want your interview to be more thorough. But then my “birth plan” (remember we lived in Colorado – practically required) was: “1) Endure labor as long as I can. 2) Ask for drugs so I won’t feel it. ” Another lady in our class had one that was like 25 pages long and found it NOT funny when I asked if it included meal requests for the hospital stay.
**Okay, that piece of baby advice was mine. Caught.
***JOKING! PUT THE PHONE DOWN.