The Scorekeeper

Honestly?

I think we keep score a lot more than we care to admit.

And I don’t just mean, “Hey, you paid for coffee last time. Let me get it today.”

I mean stupid scorekeeping.

“We called them the last few times to go out to dinner. If they want to see us, they can call.”

“I’ve taken the trash to the curb for four Fridays in a row now.”

Keeping score is a way of negotiating the ego/kindness balance.  We want to be kind. We want to be the type of person that gives without expecting anything in return. We want to look like we are Mother Theresa. Nothing bothers us. We just give and give and give with no thought of getting.

But inside, we are scorekeepers.

Here’s the honest truth.

As a mom, scorekeeping needs to go out the window from day one. Because the truth is, you will never get as much as you give. You will always, and I do mean always, give more than you get.

Maybe you’re married to Prince Charming. Maybe you’ve got a system where “I changed the diaper last time, it’s your turn” works out. It’s pretty unrealistic, though, and better left on the playground for your neighbor’s kid who is in the third grade.

I never expected it to be so one sided. I knew my personal time would be gone for several years. And it was. But most of the time that I wasn’t with my kids, having “me” time, I wanted to be with them. So there went that.

What I didn’t expect was that when you give and give to your family, pretty soon, they are old enough to give back. And that’s when they go off to college and get married and have their own apartments and houses.

And guess what? You’re still making your own dinner.  You’re still taking care of yourself when you’re sick even though you nursed a bunch of kids (and probably a husband) through countless illnesses.

I’ve grown bitter about this subject. There is nothing like being in a household with people who are fully capable of giving back the things you did for them but choose not to.  Grown adults who can make a meal with no problem still look to you when it’s dinnertime. When they go out for business meals, you’re the one at home eating the canned chili and hunks of cheese while standing over the kitchen sink.

I’m not sure how to fix this. I’ve explained until I’m blue in the face that it’s not a matter of I want less of a workload, i.e., having someone else cook one night a week.

The issue is that I want to feel loved. I want to feel like someone has taken the time to make me something they know I like JUST BECAUSE THEY CARE. I want to know what it’s like to sit down after a long day and be treated with the kindness of a hot meal because my work was appreciated.

But it’s never happened. And by the response I got last time I brought it up (“Honey, I would love it if you could make me a meal sometime.”  Response: “You wouldn’t want to eat what I cook!”  My response: “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had the chance to experience that.”)

Yep, it sounds whiney. And it is. But it’s back to keeping score. And keeping score is less about evening out responsibility than realizing that some things are done out of love, not obligation, and that’s what my heart is craving.

Seeing right through me

When I graduated high school, my family had a big party and I remember thinking that it was the first time I really felt important. I was the center of attention and it was new and exciting and a bit addictive, I have to admit. I thought to myself back then that this is how brides feel. And when you have a baby, you’re a big deal. I knew those days were ahead of me. And they were.

Almost exactly five years to the date of my high school graduation, I did become a bride. And I did have that same experience…I felt like someone. I was important. I was in the spotlight.

Kids followed in rapid succession and with that came more attention. Now, of course, the spotlight was on the babies and that was cool. Because I wanted them to have all of my attention, too. And they did.

Almost immediately, I experienced something I never in my life would have expected. I became invisible. Like I wasn’t there.

The first time it happened, I arrived at my parent’s home for a visit and the door flew open, two adoring grandparents standing there waiting to dote on this new baby, their first grandchild. They grabbed the carseat baby was in from one of my hands, grabbed the diaper bag that was in the other, disappeared into the house and shut the door.

While I was still standing outside.

It would have been hilarious had they noticed and then opened the door and saw me standing there, a bit dejected out there on the front porch, but they didn’t.  After I gathered my senses and shook the “What the HELL just happened?” from my head, I opened the door to find them completely and totally engaged in the baby.

I never did tell them that happened. And the time I was with my mother and children and we happened to see a work acquaintance of my mom’s. She introduced my children and then continued on with her conversation.  I didn’t let this one go.

“Hi, I’m her daughter,” I said, sticking my arm out to meet the acquaintance. “I’m the uterus that gave her these grandchildren.”

Half kidding. But very confused.

I never expected that one day, I would become this invisible.  Almost immediately.

Honestly?  It got worse for me.  And I imagine that the worst is yet to come.

As I write this, I see how selfish it sounds. I do not begrudge one ounce of attention my children received in their world. I would never trade that for attention on myself.

But somewhere along the way, the lack of attention begins to scream “You don’t matter. Your worthiness is gone.” Shortly after our last baby was born and we decided that our family was complete, a sibling announced she was having a baby. I burst into tears and my husband immediately thought I was jealous because I wanted another baby too. Which was partly right. But most of all, I told him, I’ll never feel special again.

And I was right.

Honest truth.

The best of times….the worst of times.

It’s true. I have become my mother.

That’s not entirely accurate. I don’t bowl on a Wednesday morning league and I don’t sit for hours talking on a phone that still has a cord and is attached to the wall (my childhood in a nutshell, circa 1975).

It is true, however, that things my mother has said have suddenly been flying out of my mouth. Given that my children are now young adults and I’m just now discovering this is a huge accomplishment in my book.

“Things sure are easier nowadays!”

So maybe “things” is over-the-top subjective. The “things” my mother means are what technology has improved. Cell phones. Dishwashers (yes, we did not have one until I was in high school). Back-up cameras in cars (she still doesn’t know how to use that new-fangled invention).

Flashback to 1986….riding without a helmet on the back of a motorcycle driven by my boyfriend (whose complete and total objective in dating me was to get me into bed) driving over 100 miles an hour down a country road. At night. In a miniskirt.

I would return home (by curfew of course…I was a nice girl. Hence, getting me into bed really WAS a conquest.) My parents would always be in bed.  The next day may or may not include a question of what I had been doing the night before. Usually not. It was as if anything BEFORE curfew was fine and good. Anything AFTER curfew had to just reek of sin.

Fast forward 2014, the year my youngest graduated high school. I might not have been totally aware of where she was at any given moment, but truth me told, it wasn’t hard to figure out (thank you Find My Friends app).  I could even tell you where my oldest daughter was…what street she was on. And she was living 5,000 miles away in Europe.

That, to me, IS good.  I’ve never been one to feel the need to check up on my kids. I’ve always felt completely comfortable leaving them home for a weekend or even a longer vacation.  They rock. Trust is never an issue.

Safety, however, is what we all take for granted. The world of cell phones ensures 2015 mom that if you can’t reach your child one way, you can find out pretty quickly where they are and that they are safe.

It is the best of times for parents. But let me clarify.

It is the best of time for parents…of teenagers.

If you are a parent of a young child, it is the worst of times. I don’t know how you guys manage it.

Facebook. SUCH a distraction. And you don’t have to be home to be distracted by it thanks to smart phones.  Today’s young mom’s don’t know what it was like to be away from the house and not have the ability to either call someone or be called. Remember running to the answering machine when you got home and hoping that the red blinking light meant your boyfriend had called?

I feel for young parents. The distractions that take us away from being in the moment and truly enjoying our children while they are changing minute by minute take inordinate amounts of self control. When the first in-car DVD player came out, I remember feeling so sad for parents who could now just plug their kid into TV in the car as well to ensure quiet on their commute. I was sad for those that missed out on singing favorite songs with their kids and in our family enjoying books on tape on long car trips.

I worry for a generation of Mombies….moms who are zombies, slaves to their phones. I truly believe it is an addiction and I don’t envy them in that regard. My youngest was two when we got the internet (yes, dial up…”You’ve Got Mail” style…). It was a blessing for me as a work-at-home mom but now that social media is such a part of everyone’s life, it’s a blessing to me that my kids are young adults and not the small children needing my time and my attention ,needing me to engage with them outside, engage with them through reading and crafts and non-electronic methods.

I’m blessed by the technology and fearful that it may drive a wedge in relationships for the generation behind me. A teacher once told me that my daughter had a lot of influence over her peers and that she needed to “use her power for good.”  I’m trying to be optimistic that technology can play the same role.

Freedom Isn’t Free

Honestly. I just do NOT get people sometimes.

As my kids have gradually left the nest, one by one, and in their own ways, I have gotten the weirdest and, sad to say, insensitive comments by people, most of whom either don’t have kids or who weren’t active in their kids’ lives.

That being said, I belong to a group of friends that enjoy children. We like our own. We like each others. We celebrate the victories. We pray for each other when times get tough. We have lost children to tragedies. We laugh and cry with and about our kids. I love that gatherings include kids of all ages. So when I’m subject to the less kid-friendly people in my life, it’s almost like being in another realm…a very foreign realm.

When my youngest was heading off to college a couple of years ago, one of the first comments I got was from a man who did not have kids of his own.

“You’re finally free!”

That hit me wrong. I had to think on that for a few seconds. I mumbled something about yeah, ha ha, whatever. Because I’m a writer. And writers are not generally quick witted. I am that prime example.

I hate those conversations I have in my head with people long after they’re gone. For hours after I had talked with this person, I came up with a million things I could have said.  That I’ve always been free. That I’ve never felt that my kids were a burden. That freedom to me was being able to have kids, loving and enjoying them and now watching them go out into the world on their own and totally rocking it.

But of course I didn’t.

So when the next insensitive comment came along, this time, surprisingly, from a father, I was more prepared to say something of more intelligence but most importantly, how I really felt.

“Now you get to figure out who YOU are. You get to do what YOU want.”

Ahem. Drumrolll, please.

“I”ve always known who I am,” I said boldly. “I was a mom before I had kids. I enjoy taking care of others. I care deeply about other people. I will always be a mom and I know it and I am proud of it. And for the record, I’ve always been able to do what I want. I have a husband who supports my every decision and kids who are flexible and trustworthy so that I can travel or get away and feel good about it.”

Okay, maybe the conservation wasn’t verbatim, but I DID manage to get my point across.

It was one of the most surprising things about entering this new season of parenthood that I was not prepared for and do not like….that people assume you’ve lived under a rock for the last 18 to 20 years and that you can now emerge and REALLY live life.

I began to live life when my first child was born. I knew completely that this was the job God had for me and I was going to do it well. And I did. And I loved it.

I lived in the joy that is happy children in a happy home in a happy school with other happy people and family.

I have lived a glorious life knowing that these kids are going out into the world and will bring joy to others as they have to me. And there is more joy to come when weddings and babies arrive.

I’ve always had my freedom. I live free from selfishness. I live free from boredom. I live free from sadness. Motherhood has brought me everything I need to truly live.

The Honest Question

I used to love to talk to other young moms. And by “talk,” I mean commiserate. Bitch. Moan and groan.  Complain.

But admittedly, I was very coy about starting the Whine Session. My go-to question was always, “Does it get any easier?”

When this question comes out of the mouth of a 27-year-old woman with two toddlers and another on the way, a seasoned mother, or just one with a heart, will answer the question with a question.

“What do you mean by ‘easier'”

Honestly?  I know the answer now. Do you REALLY want to know?

The answer to my naïve, passive-aggressive question, is no. Let me say that again, this time with feeling.

NO. It does not get easier.

In fact (if you have a glass of wine in front of you right now, this would be the time to start drinking)….it gets HARDER.

When you long for the days of no diapers, no diapers means your child is walking and talking.

When your child is walking and talking, preschool is on the horizon.

When you are so tired dressing and re-dressing your child every day, kindergarten is not far behind.

And this is where the time warp starts.

You long for the day for your child to be in school full time because that means YOU have more time.

Again. WRONG. (Need a refill on that cabernet yet?)

Time begins to speed up as your child enters school almost in direct proportion to the amount of soccer/baseball/piano/karate or other lessons begin.

The six hours from 9 AM until 3 PM are now reduced to feel exactly like an hour and a half.

It gets harder when your child is away from you more. I missed my children. My children were under the influence of other people. Thankfully we had amazing teachers and schools all the way through, including college.

It gets harder when you trade sleepless nights from a fussy baby to sleepless nights when your child is past curfew. And not answering their texts. And their phone is going straight to voicemail. (Experienced Mom’s Note:  This is 99.9 % of the time due to a child who has left the house without their phone charger. THIS is the honest truth.)

It gets harder when you begin to look back as all parents do and begin to regret decisions you have made. It gets harder when you realize you have one chance with each kid and you might have done a few things to blow it.

It gets harder when you try to make up for those times when you weren’t especially proud of your parental behavior and you realize that oh my gosh…my kid is 18 already.

It gets harder when you realize one Saturday afternoon, formerly taken up by soccer games or trips to the lake, that not a single member of your family is in the same zip code or even area code at that moment. Heck, my entire family won’t even be on the same continent for months and months to come.

So there’s the truth. Yes, it gets harder. If you know that now, you will rejoice in whatever season you are right now as a mom and rejoicing means you begin to experience a new appreciation for your kids.

Honestly….your kids know when you find them a joy or a burden.

Right now. Before it gets harder.  Rejoice in your season. The next one is going to be more challenging.

And then there were….43?

crowd

Honestly?  I know this much   ___________   about politics.

Honestly? I don’t think it matters.

It’s painful to admit that I know very little about the upcoming presidential race. A friend asked me what I thought of the candidates and instead of admitting that I really only knew that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were running, I blurted something about how there were too many people in the race for me to chose right now, blah blah blah.

So what? What if I had admitted that I just haven’t paid attention?  What if I had admitted that each year when I vote in a presidential election, they have the guy picked before the polls on the West Coast have even closed.

I spun the situation a bit. So what if I were in the political know. What if I asked a friend who she liked in the race thus far.

Honestly? I’d be more impressed with her answer to me than the one I gave my friend. Because an honest woman would have said, “Are you joking? I get my news from Facebook. I have no idea what is fact or fiction anymore!”

That same night, my son sat down to watch the debate between the Republican candidates and I did actually feel like there were just too many bodies up there to distinguish or decide between. I wasn’t the only one. (“Mom, I can’t tell the difference between the two brown-haired guys in suits.”)

So my answer was accidentally honest and it spurred me to begin to pay a bit more attention to the presidential debates and races even though my vote counts as much as if I lived in a foreign country.

I’ll take whatever honestly I can get.