“Why I do that?”

There was this PBS documentary mini-series titled: Mormons.  I had to watch it. I was two glasses of wine in and walking the line between buzzed and pretentious buzzed. “Oh yes, a PBS documentary. What else would I watch?” *adjusts imaginary glasses*

Because if you watch a PBS documentary while buzzed, and no one is there to admire your choice in programming, does the tree falling in the middle of an empty forest make a sound?

I argue that of course it still counts when you incorrectly recount the facts of said documentary later that year at holiday parties. It still counts.

And I wondered if I was watching the documentary because I wanted to or because someone once told me that well-rounded people watch documentaries. Honestly, I couldn’t be sure exactly why I was watching it. I couldn’t differentiate between my likes and desires and the desires of “the panel”. I always imagine there is an invisible panel…monitoring the decisions we make. Holding up numbers; grading our performance.

Grilled cheese and carrot sticks for dinner? 4.5

Cereal? 0.9

PBS documentary watching? 7.5

I’ve never medaled in anything.

But this whole idea of why we do things…this has been consistently gnawing at me for a few months. Do I do anything for the pure joy of it? Do I stop and say, “Fuck it! I don’t care that laundry is smothering my will to live. I don’t care that my toilet bowl looks like a Before shot. I don’t fucking care!”

But, I do care. I just don’t know why I care.

So, I’ve been breaking it down. I’ve been thinking, hard, about why and to what benefit and, how this relates to womanhood and personhood and motherhood.

I’ve been mostly considering how it relates to my reign as dictator over these four, small people. It’s not a democracy. They had no choice. It’s just me. I’m the hand they were dealt.

And because my desire to become a mother was so primal, it felt less like a choice than a reckoning. I HAD to be a mother. It wasn’t a choice. It was a calling. My bones told me I had to be one and so, I obliged. You don’t ever say no to your bones.

But, the rest of motherhood doesn’t feel like that. It taunts you because there are no right answers. You don’t feel it “in your bones” when it’s time to talk to them about sex or drugs or toxic friendships. Your bones don’t jump in to help when they tell you they hate you or ask you to stop dancing because the mere idea of you moving makes them want to dig their eyes out with a spoon. Your bones forsake you and then, it’s just YOU and THEM and nobody has the answers (no matter how many organic crackers you bought when they were toddlers).

And they are always asking you “WHY?” as well. Like we have any idea at all.

When my eldest was about 16 months old, she ate her own poop. I walked in and she was in a shit covered room, with a shit filled diaper turned upside down on a shit stained floor. She was in hysterics screaming, “I eat it! WHY I DO THAT?”

My bones didn’t help out then either.

That’s just it, we don’t know “why we do that”.

And we are always looking for answers. Begging for answers. TELL ME THE PARENTING ANSWERS. Fuck it. There are none.

There’s just your toddler eating poop and you wondering if you can bleach your baby and then figuring it out as you go.

There is no why. There are no answers.

Fuck it. You can do laundry tomorrow.

Your bones will help you push the “dry-clean only” comforter into the washing machine.

 

 

 





1/3 of a cup.

1/3 of a cup. That’s all it takes.

I was rinsing out a pesto jar. It was greasy and filthy and I was tired of making dinner. I filled it 1/3rd of the way with warm water, gave it a few “I mean it” swishes and, voila, clean. It’s like nothing every happened. It’s like it was always new and clean and waiting to be filled.

All in all, yesterday was a great first day of school. Except that my son had to be peeled from my body. I rushed our goodbye hug so I could hug crying grandmothers as they dropped off their school-aged grandchildren.

I did not cry.

I did, however, make a few mistakes at work. I neglected to order lunch for the same son that so desperately needed me to not forget his lunch. I was too busy ordering the lunches for the crying grandmothers’ grandchildren. Lunchtime came and my son’s teacher let me know, “Don’t even worry about it. There was an extra sandwich.” But, of course I worried. One day in, I’m the mom who forgot lunch.

Still, I did not cry.

I also forgot snacks. For all four of my children. At this point, I looked down at my dress and my appropriately-high-heels and I wondered if I was selfish that morning; I took the extra 10 minutes to look good. If I’d spent 5 less minutes trying to cover the 8-year-old bags under my eyes, would I have remembered snacks?

It’s doubtful.

Now would have been a great time to cry. Even still, no tears.

I pulled as far as I could into the driveway of my youngest’s daycare. I put the air on full blast and ran to the back gate just 10 feet and a world away from my car. I left the other children in their seats. I couldn’t even entertain the idea of having them enter the yard with happy, sunbathed toddlers. I could see the future – my next 40 minutes bribing children to leave a swing set. My heels had already lived their 8 hours and an eternity on my feet. I said, “I’ll be right back.” and with an ever so small eye twitch, I walked away from the car. Fortunately, the “baby” ran right to me. I grabbed her, waved and left. I barely acknowledged the women who had loved my daughter all day long.

Even still, the kids are all fine. No snack? No lunch? No problem.

But, there was something about the way the pesto left the jar.

I cried.

If you just consider what we have to work with and how much we have to do…my insides felt so sticky. The more I tried to succeed, the more I failed. And while failure is so very human, it is also so very disappointing.

But still, failure is key.

Huddled masses of new people watched me fail. I had two choices: I could accept it or, I could deny it. I chose to admit it…hopeful that with acceptance came the 1/3rd cup of water that would rinse me clean.

I don’t feel quite so sticky anymore.

This morning, I ordered my son’s lunch. I remembered snacks. I am still human. I am still flawed.

And this new school year brought so much growth. Instead of trying to be perfect, I said, “Here I am, all sticky and imperfect! I forget my kids’ lunches and I’m sometimes a mess. I like you just the way you are. I hope you’ll like me just the way I am too.”

I promise I’ll forget snacks at least 45 more times until June.

I love my kids. My kids love me just the way I am.

And it only takes just the tiniest bit of water to wash ourselves clean.

Hello, my name is Bethany and I’m going to sometimes get it right. I’ll mostly get it wrong. I like you just the way you are. I hope you’ll like me just the way I am too.





You may remember me from Walmart.

I’ve never told this story in print. It’s my own version of the (sub)urban legend; that time everything goes stunningly wrong to the point of absurdity.

I’m telling it now because frankly, I can’t remember where I put my keys and, I want my great-great grandchildren to one day sit around a fire-lit room and give thanks that I’ve long since passed and am no longer around to serve as a constant scourge on our lineage.

I was pregnant. I was in Walmart. I was wearing a see-though dress. Hold up, this sounds like the beginning of a country song!

I was pregnant
In the Walmart
Folks saw my panties
Oh the shame
Oh the shame
Ohhhh the shaaaaaaaaaaaame

I’ll get back to those lyrics later.

So, I was pregnant inside of a Walmart. So far, so good. Pretty par for the course. I was in a see-through dress. Well…still not that atypical. I mean, Walmart. BUT, what was atypical about my People of Walmart experience is that I didn’t know my dress was see-through.

AHA! FUN!

I also was wearing my very last pair of underwear because I had been too ill to do laundry. It was an adorable pair of incredibly stretchy boy short undies that I’d bought before I got married. They were black and had giant, white bubble letters printed on the ass that said: I LOVE ROBERT!

So, I’m hobbling through the Walmart proclaiming my ass’s love for Robert when all of a sudden, I feel ill. I mean, really ill; leave the shopping cart full of cheese and Preparation-H in the aisle and run to the bathroom ill. I made it just in time to vomit in a stall with the door wide open….with a baby strapped to my chest.

Oh, I didn’t mention the baby. Right. I had a baby in a pack strapped to my body.

I was pregnant
In a Walmart
Folks saw my panties
I then vomited
In the stall
With my baaaaaaaaaaaa-aaaa-bbbbb-y

This song is getting really good.

I stumbled to the sink, rinsed out my mouth, re-adjusted my baby and went back to my cart.

Then, people started to stare. I must have really looked ill. I can only image. Thankfully, I didn’t need to imagine for long. I passed a mirror in the Home Goods section. My neck was bleeding – blood was all over my neck and my baby’s hand. Apparently, while I was vomiting, she’d scratched a mole on my neck.

To recap: I was pregnant, carrying a baby with a bloody hand. I had blood dripping down my neck. I had just vomited. My ass loves Robert and everyone knows it. This is all happening in Walmart. We all on the same page?

Good.

I ran back to the same bathroom and cleaned off my neck. Nothing else could possibly go wrong now.

Oh, what a silly woman I am.

At check-out, the young cashier seemed very uncomfortable. I chalked it up to breath. I realized she’d probably seen worse. I was still feeling pretty good about myself until she said, “Ma’am, your…ummm…dress.”

I looked down and one breast was hanging out. A complete breast. At some point between blood clean-up and check out, my baby had pulled down one side of my dress. How long had I been walking around with an exposed breast? Some of life’s mysteries are better left unanswered.

I fixed my dress, mumbled something about the day I was having and sauntered off letting her and everyone get one last look at my Robert lovin’ ass.

I arrived back at my sister-in-law’s house. As I relayed this story she said, “Do you know your dress is completely see-through?” and I laughed and said, “Yeah right. That’s hilarious.” and she said, “No. Really. I can see your underwear.” and it was at this moment that I realized that not only was I eligible for the People of Walmart website, I was the People of Walmart President. You can call me Madame President, thank you very much.

I was pregnant
The day my baby
Scratched my neck mole
And I puked in a public restroom
STAAAAAAAhhhhhhL
Then my boob, it was out
While I wandered about
And my rear
Told the secrets of my heart

I was pregnant
In a Walmart
I had hemorrhoids
My baby
Made me bleed
In the aisles
It wouldn’t be so bad
If I had just stayed in bed
Now I’m President
Of People of Walmart

Ok guys, is this good enough to sing now?

Until next time, you’ve never shown your panties in a Walmart and you’re a lady goddammit.

Yours until the end of time,
Bad Parenting Moments





Give up a little.

I’m going to talk a bit about marriage. If you haven’t started rolling your eyes yet, just give me 2 minutes. Hang in there.

My husband and I are entering our 10th year of marriage. It does not get easier. It’s a little like the sand in the bottom of your shoes at the end of a beach day. Persistent and sometimes annoying and mostly, a lovely reminder of that great day at the beach.

And then there’s the changing. No one is ever done changing. As Michelangelo said at age 87, “Ancora imparo. [I am still learning.]”

We were 25 and 32.

We are now 35 and almost 42.

A lot of learning happens. A lot of changing happens. And yet, we’re still here.

The thing about binding yourself in perpetuity to another is really the whole permanence of it. Our generation is not one of sticking. We are into growing and changing. We are into development. We are into our kids; epically into our kids. We are not so much into ourselves. We are not so much into each other. Therefore, we stick like those craft googly eyes to yarn – not very well.

Many of our parents divorced. Hey, we all turned out alright. And, we did. It’s true. We turned to Annie and The Neverending Story and E.T. – the real-life stories of broken homes healed us. We found a way to be resilient. And it worked because our parents were happier apart than they were together. We learned that if you cannot be happy in your own skin, you should never inhabit the skin of another.

And like elephants, we remember.

Marriage is hard. It’s give and take and mostly, it feels like you’re the one doing all the giving. Of course, both parties feel this way. It’s love and unrequited love and both parties take turns feeling the pangs of rejection. It’s the day-to-day with small children and nights when you want to talk, but, then sleep wins. Because sleep always wins.

It’s sex and no sex and not enough sex. The sex, it matters.

And it’s hard. And, it’s wonderful. And, it’s fucking hard.

Then, there are times when you come to a cross-road. It’s not about one thing. It’s about all things. You look at that face you know so well and wonder if you really know it at all. You do a lot of wondering…

The changing is happening every moment. You have very little control over how you change and how you grow. You just do and you expect the people you love to come with you.

Sometimes, they don’t. But, sometimes…they insist upon it.

I’ve only packed a bag once and I meant it.

And yet, we’re still here.

It’s not perfect and it never will be, but, it’s really quite beautiful in its difficulty.

My husband and I had a stand-off last week; a This Is Who I Am vs. I May Not Like Who You Are Becoming. It was intense and there was no give.

And then, there was give. Because someone gives instead of giving up. It’s part of the growing. It’s not all synchronized swimming. It’s bloody knees and stopping to help each other back up.

This is my marriage. It’s ugly and beautiful and hard and ultimately, perfect.

But, it’s never easy.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.





“Just go in your underwear!”

“Just go in your underwear!”

I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. Clear, jolly and amused by our lack of ingenuity. No bathing suits? Just go in your underwear. In the early 80s, this was the answer to most water play dilemmas. Truth be told, it is still my first response when a child arrives at my home unprepared to be wet. I channel the woman who never lacked common sense.

A bathing suit isn’t a necessity. Plans aren’t a necessity. Dirt is necessary. The sprinkler is necessary.

My grandmother would place the sprinkler on her small, rectangular patch of Southern California front lawn. We would run until the wet was down to our bones.

There wasn’t anything as good as that feeling. Stringy hair in our eyes and pools of muddy water around our feet; pushing one foot down until you could only see your ankle.

My grandmother was inside doing…something. Or nothing. We never knew. Sometimes, sandwiches would magically appear.

We’d make elaborate mud pies with the tin plates she’d given up on. If you wanted to know which special event you were celebrating, you had to count the rocks on your pie. 1, 2, 3, 4, 8! Happy 8th Birthday!

Time moved like partially solidified honey and it was just as sweet.

At night, we’d run around the back porch, a blanket draped loosely over our backs and tied with those thin, red rubber bands all grandmothers kept in their junk drawer. We were still in our underwear; dried mud on our feet.

They had a few glasses of Wild Turkey on the rocks in the evenings. My grandmother’s leg resting on a small table. They would chat and laugh and observe. We were clearly their world, but, we weren’t their entire world.

We slept on the floor on carefully arranged couch cushions; the lilac air freshener doubling as “monster spray” protecting us as we slept.

At 6:00 a.m., I would hear her slippered feet in the hallway. At 6:15, the smell of her coffee entered the room before her. Folgers.

When my children tell me they hate the sprinkler, I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of those summers wasn’t transferred genetically.

“Don’t you want to hear about my summers with Grandma Marylee?”

“Who?”

I wonder how it is possible that my deep love of her wasn’t transferred genetically.

She would pass by my tousled hair peeking out from under a blanket on her way to the back porch; her coffee in hand, ” Are you up? Do you want to join me for coffee?”

After she drank her coffee, we’d start all over again.

“Grandma, I don’t have a bathing suit!”

“Just go in your underwear!”





Mercury is in retrograde.

Every time someone tells me that Mercury is in retrograde, I wonder what I should be feeling. We are always looking for simple answers for our big emotions. We don’t want to feel them. We want to explain them and tuck them into neat boxes to be filed away later by an overzealous intern.

“Ahhhh yes, you’re feeling longing? File that under Mercury in retrograde.”

It’s just what we do. We want the illusion of order and the simplicity of categorization. When we are ill, we want medicine. When we feel big things, we want structure.

Feelings are chaos. We don’t like chaos. We’ve been told time and time again that chaos is bad. BAD chaos, BAD.

So the big things and the ugly things often get pushed under the beautiful area rugs in our mind. If it doesn’t fit, you must hide that shit.

I’m done with that part.

It was the end of the year at my new job. Students were leaving. Staff were leaving. There was exit and newness swimming in the air. There were tears and the emptying of desks and the changing of the guard. It was heavy on everyone’s shoulders.

Watching the timid steps of small feet mourning the loss of a teacher they loved or a desk they’d just grown used to. Or, the holding on so tightly to a woman who has put band-aids on their knees for over 7 years. Just another day. We weave in and out of each other’s lives.

It’s not seamless, but, we want it to be. We put our heads down when we cry. We wait until the last moments to wear our big feelings on our faces. We wait for an embrace before the flood gates open and we turn our insides out.

We are so ashamed of our sadness. We are so angered by our longing.

We wait until the last of all moments to say, “Thank you!” and, “I love you.” and, “I’m sorry.” and, “I’ll miss you.”

I watched the students linger in the hallways; holding papers and books close and tight to their chests. It was as if they were sure that if they moved their protective shields, their bare hearts would be exposed.

And I watched all of this unfold marveling at how much we all just need each other and how much we try to fight it.

Mercury may be in retrograde, but, that’s not why our bare hearts are hanging out.

I love you. I’m sorry. I’ll miss you. Thank you.

I’m not waiting until the bitter end to say it.





That mom.

These last three weeks have been a test of something. I’m still trying to figure out what the universe is saying. I really am intently listening, but, her message is being drowned out by my perpetual yelling at my children.

We are at the tail end of the school year. We’re all proceeding as if we are in our last week of work after 50 years with the company. We’re physically present and emotionally in Aruba.

Every school morning has become a pained documentary about the world’s slowest and most mismanaged mile. School lunches have basically been reduced to a box of band-aids.

Like marathon runners in the home stretch, we are limping in and drenched in our own urine. We’re shutting the fuck down.

And, because of this, I have been “that mom” more often than usual. Which for me means, I’ve been “that mom” almost constantly.

I hate being “that mom”. But, they are being “those kids”. And this mom turns to THAT mom like a wildfire starts in the dry and brittle California hills.

We’re on the world’s most annoying roller coaster of all uphill and no sweet release of the easy and exhilarating down. Nothing has been easy.

I have fully given up my societal facade of decorum. “That mom” with the screaming two year old with only one shoe hanging sideways under her arm? Yep. Totally me. And, “that mom” carrying 3 backpacks and stomp-fuming toward the playground her children ran off to without telling her first? Nice to meet you!

And “that mom” running after her toddler who has developed a new obsession with parking lots…her thighs causing enough friction to create an electrical storm? Me again.

And, “that mom” trying to avoid after school play dates like the a middle school band concert? Also me.

And, “that mom” grounding everyone and then happily letting them go to parties and slumber parties because GET OUT OF HERE! Howdy.

And they are “those kids” with the constant whining and fighting and running off and the terrible case of doing whatever the hell we want-itis.

And I’m the one trying not to eat her young.

I know it’s the season of discontentment. They can taste summer. They are railing against structure and time constraints. They are done with school and not moving their bodies while the sun is shining through unopened school windows.

I can taste summer. I am railing against muffin baking and school fundraisers and kill-me-now packing lunches and not moving my body after a winter in which I ate my weight in bread and cheese and all of the buttered things.

I have to remind myself that the great thing about this time of perpetual deconstruction is that eventually we will hit rock bottom.

I love rock bottom.

That point at which the sand castle you built all year crumbles. The foundation is flat and you have no choice but to all look at each other and say, “Our home is gone. I love you. Let’s start again.”

We always rebuild.

I don’t know what our rock bottom this year will be. Will it be me completely flipping out at a Farmer’s Market when my 2 year old tries to steal someone’s goat? Will it be when I undoubtedly forget someone’s end of year school field trip and they vow to hate me forever?

I don’t know, but, I do know that when we sit surrounded by the ashes of this school year, we’ll come together like everyone does after defeat and complete devastation and the trauma of life and all of the hard things we share.

Like family. We may be “that mom” and “those kids”, but, we’re in this together.

I can’t wait to see next year’s castle. I hope it has an in-ground pool.





The scooter.

When something truly ridiculous happens, it often makes me feel better imagining that every parent must have a story that feels and sounds like the pilot episode of an HBO series.

I’ve had so many bad parenting moments, but, generally my laissez faire attitude about the job and the inevitable consequences of said attitude only extend to my immediate family. Until this week.

I give you my HBO pilot for Bad Parenting Moments – The Scooter Snafu. (Hey, call me sometime, HBO!)

On Sunday, I was perusing all of the school paperwork I’d neglected all week when I ran across this in the bulletin:

“MISSING SCOOTER – Did you accidentally bring home the wrong scooter with your child? A scooter with pink handlebars went home with the wrong family on April 10th. Was it you? Please contact the office with any information.”

And my first thought was, “Oh shit…I stole that kid’s scooter.” and my second thought was, “Oh shit…that was almost a month ago.” and my third thought was, “Oh. Shit.”

For about 6 weeks, we’d been giving eldest’s classmate a ride home after school. Four days a week, I’m wrangling 5 children into a minivan. To say that I handle it with grace would be a gigantic lie. I’m generally found on the front lawn of the school yelling at random children, mostly my own, saying, “WHERE IS (fill in the name of child currently under my care that is missing)?” and, “We have to go. Now. It’s time to go. Get in the car. We’re late.”

On April 10th, the scene was no different except that the child we were driving home informed me that he rode his scooter to school that morning. So, in my best impression of a flailing armed muppet, I ushered him quickly to the bike rack, had him point out his scooter, forcefully grabbed it, shoved it in my trunk and left.

When I dropped him off, he said, “Wait, this isn’t my scooter.” and I said, “You’re joking, right?” and he said, “No!” and I said, “OH no! Be sure you bring it back to school tomorrow!” and then I sped away toward my next school pick-up leaving a 2nd grader and a stolen scooter in my rearview mirror.

I then forgot all about the scooter.

Completely forgot the entire episode.

Until that fateful Sunday…

Oh. Shit.

So, I immediately e-mail the school administrator. “Oh heyyyy, I have some information about the stolen scooter.” and proceed to tell the story. And she returns my e-mail very quickly to tell me she’s so pleased there’s a lead because the family is very determined to get it back.

Gulp.

I then vow to replace the scooter if anything happened to it.

I then e-mailed the mother of the child we drop off and, long story short, have to remind her of that time I left her son with a scooter that wasn’t his outside of her place of business.

Thankfully, she had the scooter. In her trunk. Because she had forgotten as well. Because motherhood.

I e-mail the school, “Oh heyyyy, MYSTERY SOLVED!”. I try to make us look like Scooby Doo crime fighters and day savers instead of thieves and forgetful parents.

I then have to face the music the next day at school pick-up. I had to tell the mom I stole her daughter’s scooter.

The look on her face was a mix of surprise and confusion as I rattled off the tale of my abject laziness and dropping-of-the-ball-ness. It wasn’t until she said, “It didn’t look like you on the tape.” that I realized that there was surveillance of me stealing the scooter.

Right.

A bunch of school officials and these parents had been viewing this happen. I’m on tape stealing a scooter. At my children’s elementary school.

Let that sink in for a moment, folks.

The good news is, the scooter has been returned. The bad news is, I stole a little girl’s scooter from an elementary school.

Helpful pro tip: The mom uniform of black yoga pants, oversized black fleece and hat pulled over dirty hair makes you difficult to identify during a scooter thievery. The more you know.

Until next time, this is Bad Parenting Moments wishing you a lovely and theft-free day.





“You’re fine.”

After four children and several years of parenting, you could say my emotional responses to certain things have changed over time.

I know the particular sound a child makes when its foot is caught between two crib rails. I know the difference between hunger and boredom and I know, I know, I know when you are fake upset or fake crying.

I’m like a crying Yoda. The Navy Seal of crying. *Field of Dreams whisper* If you fake cry, I will not come.

Today my four year old was pretending to be very upset about something really, really, devastatingly unimportant. It was the usual wailing and coyote howls straight from the Tom Cruise school of over-acting.

I ignored her. That’s how I roll. I stirred my coffee very slowly and made no movement to rectify the obviously concocted plight.

She finally came downstairs and said, “MY STRIPED SHIRT IS DIRTY! IT IS MY FAVORITE! I CAN’T WEAR IT TODAY!” and then she melted into a puddle of tears and barely passible grief and I said, “You’re fine.”

Later today, a mock shriek of epic proportions came from the swing set. “MOMMY! MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!”

I continued to wash dishes.

She finally stomped in and said, “There is dirt on my feet!” and I said, “You’re fine.”

Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre. The actors are really into it. This is their moment and they think that everyone filling the room is just as into it as they are. They often fail to notice that the filet looks like dog shit and that the attendees are hoping for a massive coronary, praying for a swift death. “Dear Lawd, please take me away from all this tragedy and terrible acting.”

Since she is my third 4 year old, I’m kind of like that friend you have who continues to lose really stupid bets. I’ve been here before and I’m not impressed by the terrible theatrics and yes, my filet will always look like dog shit.

A friend recently pointed me toward a magazine article that severely detailed the “10 things you should NEVER EVER say to your child!”. I found one of my stock answers, “You’re fine/ok” was among them.

And I had to excuse myself from the internet while I kicked a whole boat load of rocks.

Because,

1) Calm down, parenting magazines

but guess what, no biggie…

2) I’m fine.

and

3) She’s ok.

I tell my 4 year old that she is fine because she is and if that’s the kind of brash, harsh reality that I shouldn’t be exposing my children to then…oh well. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

It’s the same way I feel about lots of things people “should” you about. You should do this and you should do that and you should consider…” but, no thank you, I believe I will not.

I tell her that she is fine because she is and more than that, no matter what any magazine tells me my job is, I truly don’t believe my job is to make every tiny cardboard lizard into a terrible, ferocious fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we do need to acknowledge that a dirty shirt isn’t the end of the world.

She fell off of the swing a few days ago. She was hurt and scared and a bit confused. The wind was knocked out of her. I ran over and scooped her up. She cried and buried her face in my hair. I said, “I’m here! I’m right here. I’m sorry you’re hurt. I love you.”

The world is like that. Humanity is like that. We don’t need our community to run to our aid over every teeny-tiny perceived threat to our psyche, but, when we’re really hurt, we really show up for each other. I like this model; recognizing the times that call for a soft shoulder while acknowledging that sometimes, that gnawing inconvenience is not the end of our world even if it may feel like it for a few minutes.

Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.

And I’m going to continue to say that she’s fine when she is and I’m going to continue to love her through the hard stuff when she’s not.

I can live with that even if I’m doing it wrong.





The minutes and measure of a man.

On Saturday night, at a small restaurant at an even smaller table, four parents discussed parenting. That’s a big topic. Broad and cavernous – so full of the space between all our ideologies and thoughts. 4 parents. 4 philosophies. No matter how intertwined, when it comes right down to it, we are always and utterly in left field. There is no amount of sameness that makes parenting truly feel simpatico.

We were talking about the rapture of current parenting. This new-age “all in” prom. Everyday, all of the children are kings and queens and we’re there to make sure no one spikes the punch. It’s lovely and exhausting; our wanting to be fully involved while functioning on the same lack of sleep as our forefathers. Four score and seven cups of coffee ago.

With all of the supposed progress, it’s much the same except the stakes are so much higher. We MUST be present or, to our children’s chagrin, we are absentee. And, we worry so much more about being absentee even though we are perpetually and stunningly there. SO there. It’s nonsense this “not enough”. It’s nonsense.

Because…

Whenever I’m in the depths of the, “I don’t show up enough.”, I always think of my father.

My parents divorced when I was very young. I saw my father only during the summer. Still, he is my soft place to land. He is my humanity ground zero. When all is broken, he is the fullness of possibility and the truthful teller of the consequences of bad decisions. He is the parent I run to and he was rarely “there”.

There is subjective. There bends.

He was always and boldly working toward fulfilling his dream of being a musician. Our fleeting times with him were mostly spent with grandparents I’ve grown to idolize and homes I’ve grown to daily daydream of. His presence in his own life, never giving up on his life’s calling, led to a very rich carousel of love and presence in the family around us; yet, I can imagine that he felt the ugly tug of parenting guilt. He worked constantly and we did what latchkey kids do – we used our goddamn imagination.

Guess what? We’re ok.

My father taught me about the value of kindness, the bravery of a great adventure, the American songbook and the weight of your own decisions.

We probably spent, on average, roughly 90 quality minutes with him every day for two months once a year.

Yet, those 90 minutes are the cornerstone of who I am.

I think of the time I spend with my children…the kitchen that I seem to occupy with every spare breath I breathe. The meals that take on a life of their own and the pure function that overrides the fun. You can’t spell function without f-u-n. But, watch us try…

As I readied myself for this Saturday night dinner, my eldest daughter was showering while I put on make-up and we spoke for about 15 minutes about friendship and secrets. Those you should keep and those you should never keep. We talked about her growing up. We talked a little about me growing up. I’d been with her all day and yet, these 15 minutes, we were both THERE. We were both all in and I think, if I can just carve 15 minutes a day just like that into their lives, that will equal success.

It’s ok that I can’t be totally and 100% present every moment. It really is. Being there is about providing the cornerstone and there’s no manual on how much time builds the foundation.

It could be 15 minutes a day. There is something stunning about that. There is something beautiful. I’m giving myself permission to truly be there for 15 minutes a day – because right now, that’s the best I can do. That means that I also have to give myself permission to not worry about how much I’m messing it up the other hours of the day while writing, cooking, laundering or just, sometimes blindly, showing up.

90 minutes for 2 months a year taught me all of the good things I know about truth, love, life and the human experience. Maybe we should all relax a little.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.