happiness · intentional happiness · motherhood · neighbors · sons

Fewer wrinkles

I’ll be the first to admit: America’s post-pandemic economy and post-pandemic societal norms are slowly robbing me of the will to live. Everything costs too much. Everyone’s tired of each other’s shit. People honk their horns and flip birds at each other over the slightest perceived transgression. (I confess I almost daily want to ramrod someone with my own vehicle.) Boundaries are subjective and unclear and therefore disrespected and overruled on a near-daily basis. Nothing is sacred, and yet somehow everything is sacred, and how dare you not know the difference. Microagressions abound, and you don’t even have to mean to hurt someone to be taken to the mat and given a dressing down best reserved for people who wipe boogers on things. Your bedroom is your office, the workday has faux bookends, and cc fields on emails are where wars are waged. It’s very confusing. Oh, and everything’s made in China and will stop working the second you brush your arm against it. Perhaps most concerning of all: Some lady on social media with a wad of gum wedged in her molars seems hellbent on selling me crotch deodorant. (Hi, Lume! I’m accepting free samples!)

But I know this to be true: Whatever we humans train our attention on will appear larger than it is. People who rescue dogs are forever stumbling across strays. People who collect heart-shaped rocks find them every time they look down on a hike. If you love owls or pink sunrises, model trains or vintage cars, big noses or small ears–whatever floats your boat–I guarantee that you see these all over the place and far more often than other people do. By that same reasoning, when you look for wrinkles, you find them. This blog is about seeking more pink sunrises and fewer wrinkles. On that note…

My son finished up junior high this week, and the school parent-teacher organization sold custom graduation yard signs as a way to raise funds while honoring the occasion. I bought one and placed it in the front yard. It just says, “Congratulations, Beckett! Class of 2023 [School Name] Junior High School!” Nothing fancy.

Mind you, in our new neighborhood, people communicate only through the same three barking dogs that wake us all up in unison each day. They don’t actually know each other or seem particularly interested in changing that. So I had no delusions anyone other than my son was going to read or care about the sign. But then an envelope showed up the day after I posted the sign. It was wedged in our front door, and this was what was inside:

How sweet was this? How thoughtful and kind? How generous? It made such a big impact on all of us and was a very bright spot in a seemingly endless string of stressors in our lives. In response, my husband picked up a nice card in the grocery store. My son wrote inside, “It’s good to know that there are people like you in the world.” I walked with him to the address listed in the card–several streets away from us, as it turned out–and we knocked on the door, hoping to meet these neighbors in person. They weren’t home, so we left the card in their own front door and walked home together holding hands, him chattering away in his cracking voice about one day traveling to Norway, plans to audition for jazz band, how exclamation points are announced in some African languages, the reason he doesn’t want a cell phone, and a zillion other things that I wouldn’t have otherwise heard had we not set out on that walk to meet the nice strangers. Through one single act of kindness, they created such joy!

If you are having a seemingly endless string of stressors or wanting to ramrod strangers with your car, I highly recommend giving yourself a homework assignment to notice something good each day. Fewer wrinkles, more sunrises. It’s contagious, and it helps.

humor · kids say the darndest things · motherhood · preschoolers · sons · vomiting

Swallow Back the Years (from the Momplex Blog archive)

I do not want my kids to grow up. There. I said it. I like them little. I like how they smell. I like how my daughter’s voice still sounds about half her age when we talk on the phone. I like how my son says he’s built a Lego structure by following the “durkstructions.” The backs of their heads and their little buns are cuter than any interspecies bonding pic you can throw my way.

A few nights ago, during bedtime snuggling, my 4-year-old son asked me, “Mom, does it make you happy if I’m not growing up anymore?” I didn’t answer right away. I don’t really want my kids to know that I want them to stay little. I don’t think that’s healthy. My cousin suffers from severe anorexia, and last year I read in some old 1970s book on the subject, written by an eating-disorders specialist, that some anorexics seem to have a deep-rooted fear not so much of getting fat but of getting big, as in not a kid anymore.

I don’t need a medical professional to tell me that it’s not wise to try to keep your kids from growing up, though. Kathy Bates makes the most compelling case of all:


But still. When my son asked me the question, he smelled like Mr. Bubble and was wearing his solar-system pajamas and had his tiny fat palms splayed on either side of my face. His eyes were searching mine for the truth.

“Yes,” I answered. “I suppose so.”

“Good! I’m not growing up anymore.”

“How are you going to do that?” I asked, realizing that I should have lied or at least told the other truth. Which is that I do want him to grow up to be a man but to also leave some sort of specter of his 4-year-old self behind, preferrably one that will still come cowlicked and bright-eyed and crunching down the stairs in the morning in his GoodNites protective “underwear” (a.k.a. an XL pull-up, as if we can’t read between the lines, Huggies).

“I don’t do it anymore!” he said. “I stopped growing up! I don’t ever grow up anymore!”

Man, he was really excited about this. Kind of heartbreaking, especially when I think about the comments his 9-year-old sister has made over the past year, about not wanting to turn 10 next year. She’s adamant that all the fun in life is when you’re a little kid, and that the bigger you get, the more schoolwork and life-work you have. Becoming a teenager? Fuggedabowdit. She dreads that. I set a kiss on the bridge of my son’s nose and smiled.

“Well, that’s a neat trick,” I told him. “How are you going to do it?”

“I just swallow it.” He gulped and smiled. “I swallow it down. When it comes up, it goes here [motions to his chest] then here [motions to his clavicles] then here [motions to his throat], and then I swallow it back down, so I don’t grow up anymore!”

“Wait a minute. Are you feeling sick?” I sat up and scrutinized his face. “Do you feel like you need to throw up?”

“Nope.” He shook his head. “Because I swallow it down!”

“Your throw-up? You mean you swallow down your throw-up?” He nodded proudly, giving me his happy-drunk devilish smile with upturned-V eyebrows, a dead-ringer for Jack Nicholson:

A face only a mother could love. And I do, but only on my 4-year-old.
A face only a mother could love. And I do, but only on my 4-year-old.

“When do you do this?” I was feeling sick myself now. “Did this happen today? Have you been feeling sick?”

“Whenever I feel it come up.” God, he was so proud of himself.

“That sounds pretty gross.”

“I like it!” he answered. “It tastes good.”

Ummmm, yeah, kid. You can go ahead and grow up now.

(From the archives, originally published 2012)

babies · daughters · motherhood · sons

Second-Born (from the Momplex Blog archives)

She wasn’t here before.

I came first.

What happened in the world, happened to me.

There was a long stretch before her.

Then suddenly she was everything.

I became the sea to her boat, and she the sea to mine.

That’s how it is, you know.

One day you just become a parent,

Then whatever happens in the world, happens to your child.

But you? You definitely weren’t here before.

You happened to both of us.

You turned my baby into a big kid, and me into a juggler.

Like a mirror reflecting a mirror,

My baby holds my baby,

And I can see love for an eternity.

Originally posted March 2011