Attack of the Pretty Police

 

Robert Palmer Girls
Caution: Mixed metaphors ahead.

Addison is changing. And I don’t like it one bit.

My once supremely confident, creative, take-no-trash little Alpha dog – the one who seemed to eat life up she loved it so – has become doubtful and disillusioned. Among her first grade peers, her big bark and wildly wagging tail have all but disappeared, replaced by a disconcerting deference to the ‘popular’ girls.

The seeds of insecurity were sewn in kindergarten, when it became clear over the course of the year that the girls – five year olds – were beginning to classify each other as pretty and…not. Popularity was subsequently determined by where you fell on that excruciatingly superficial and subjective scale.

As usual, the Pretty Police prevailed:

I can’t wear that…everyone will think I look stupid.

 Madison says my eyes are squinty when I smile.

 So-and-so says my ears stick out too far.

 Really?!  First of all, there is nothing wrong with Alpha’s ears except her propensity for using them selectively when I am speaking to her. And secondly, as a species our ears tend to protrude from our heads in order to gather sound, so that we can hear.

Honestly, it took every ounce of restraint I had not to summon up Kristen and Demi, just to make a particular point:

Kristen Stewart

See? Beautiful AND sticky-outy ears.

But that would’ve been immature. And I am a model of maturity. Ask anyone (who has known me less than a year).

Demi Moore

"Bite it, Princess Perfect Ears. -- Love, Demi"

Anyway, four months into the new school year and the seeds have taken seemingly firm root, sprouting insidious weeds that I’m afraid will smother too many of the things that make Addison a fairly magnificent specimen to behold.

Hopefully sometime before the hormones strike their hefty blow, my Alpha dog will rediscover her inner nonconformist…the one who was once so often heard to say, “That’s stupid. I’m not doing it.”

In the meantime, those of us who love her will pull on our gardening gloves, drag the hoes out of the shed, and settle in for some serious weeding.

She’s a Superstar…

Molly Shannon on the red carpet as a 'Superstar!'

Mothers are notorious for telling their children they can be — or do — anything they want in life.  This is not, as I suspect some teenagers may believe, an attempt to blow sunshine up the dark orifices of an entire generation.  Rather, it is a mother’s keen understanding of the true possibility and potential of her offspring.  It’s our little way of saying, “Hey kid, make good choices and stay out of your own way, and you’ll go far in life.”  We’re trying to inspire confidence, for God’s sake.  You’re WELCOME. 

(Also, we happen to truly believe that you are fantastic. Gratitude can be expressed in your choice of especially thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts or by successfully completing adolescence without the need to be bailed out of anywhere.  Take your pick.)

While most of us fall into the category of “could have climbed a little higher on the life ladder if we’d only had a tad more nerve and the discipline to forego 10-20 fewer Saturday night keggers,” there are some people who come into this world as a force of nature.  There’s no doubt these little suckers are going somewhere…it’s just a semi-frightening matter of whether they choose to use their powers for good or evil. 

Case in point:

Independent third-party predictions for the manner in which Addison will bring the global masses to their collective knees have included President of the United States and cult leader.  These assessments were levied by people I consider to be fairly informed and reliable sources:  her preschool teacher and one of the Hub’s coworkers who is a confirmed hater of small people who are clearly immature and germ-infested. 

Suffice it to say, it was the former who predicted Addison will someday bust up on Barack in Chicago and snip, “Yeah, you were first. In your own little way. But the girls are in the house now, baby, and I am so gonna kick your legacy’s candy ass.”  As the only rooster on his own little chick farm, it’s my bet that he’ll find this at least mildly amusing.

Addison herself, is still in deliberation.  She announced this morning that she would like to be taken to Hollywood…the sooner the better.  I’d like to say that she added something especially funny like, “because I’m a superstar,” but the manner in which this request was delivered clearly denoted that part was implied.  While I”m sure I’d make a smokin’ hot stage mom, my response was to suggest that she wait a few years.  Like until she’s 18 and waited enough tables to come up with her first month’s rent.  Because I’m not footing the bill for super-stardom until she demonstrates a little initiative. Or at least a willingness to perform “Henry Pickle” on cue for family and friends in a manner that truly befits her level of talent and stage presence.  I think it’s important to be practical about these sort of things.

Anyway, given my general lack of cooperativeness, she has currently decided to settle for an as-yet-unplanned trip to Disney World, where she can get her princess on.  Royalty, I suppose, will have to suffice until she can round up the cash for bus fare to the Big Time. 

For my part, I’m glad to have a few more years to see how my tiny tornado takes on the world while still having the safety of our little family to retreat to after a tough day of directing teachers and classmates presumably less qualified for greatness.  I hope she finds a way to keep all her confidence and moxy intact to adulthood.  If she does, the world had better watch out.  The Force is strong with this one…

First in Flight

 

Boy pretending to fly

“Why are we stopping here?”

I look at my son in the rearview mirror.  Mint chocolate chip ice cream is tracking a path down his chin, subtracting a good four years from his age. 

“I need milk and creamer,” I sigh.  It is the end of one of those weekends. The kind that wears on you like a long-sleeved t-shirt on a suddenly, unseasonably warm spring day.  And the weight of activity and obligation has knocked me flat, bothered and exhausted. 

“I’ll be so glad when you’re 10,” I tell him, slipping the car into park under the awning in front of the grocery store.  An eyebrow shoots up over his sweating cone.

“Why?” he asks.

“Because,” I say, “then I’ll be able to dole out some cash and have you go get creamer and milk.  It’ll be fantastic.”

The car (for once) is blissfully silent except for the sound of the ‘Fearless’ Ms. Swift..Hey Stephen, I could give you fifty reasons…And I’m almost finished psyching myself up for the quick in-and-out for my must-have morning crutch, when I hear:

“I think I can do it.”

The solemnity with which this line is delivered almost makes me laugh out loud.  I look back at him with an amused smile.  “You think so, huh?”

“Yeah.  I do.  Seriously.  I know where the milk is,” he says.  “I have to get the organic kind — 1 percent.  And I have to check the expiration date for the farthest one out.  Dad told me.  And the creamer, it’s just right there next to the milk, right?”

“Well yeah,” I say.  All of a sudden I feel like I’ve walked slam into a MOMENT…like the ones that used to come in frequent and ferocious waves when the kids were babies.  When ‘firsts’ crashed on top of each other at such a pace that it was hard to keep the shutter snapping fast enough to capture them all.

“Are you sure?  I mean, do you really think you can do it?” 

“Yeah, Mom. I know I can.”  (I’m ‘Mom’ now.  Just in the last two weeks.  It’s a moniker that makes me feel like I should be trading Rainbows and tank tops for Keds and popped-collar polos.)

“Well, OK.  Here’s some money.  Go straight in, get the stuff and come right back out.  If you’re in there more than 10 minutes, I’m going to come looking for you.”

“Got it,” he says.

As I watch him jog off towards the doors of the grocery store, already working the casual swagger of a much older and cooler boy, I fight back small swells of irrational panic. I mentally take in the parking lot.  The people coming and going.  Cars, trucks and vans that could hold something or someone suspect.  Finally, after a thorough casing of the joint, I reach an uneasy peace.

The child is not entering an enemy POW camp rife with hostile, apron-donning terrorists, I think.  You have a clear view of both entrances.  If anyone tries to hustle, shuffle or outright drag that baby out the door, you can just run them over with the car.  No problem.  You’ve got this.

“I hope Griffin is OK,” says Addison from the perfect and precious safety of her booster seat.  Her voice startles the absolute crap out of me.  My oldest child has been gone for six minutes and in my pscyho-Mommy obssessing, I’ve somehow managed to forget that she is even there.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.  Not in my whole life.  An 8-year-old boy going into the store all by himself.”  She sounds both awed and only slightly unsure that my next move might be to send her around the corner to McDonald’s to pick me up a Big Mac.

“I suppose, if he doesn’t come out in like, 15 hours, we’ll just have to go in and get him,” she says.  And that finally cracks my shell of low-grade anxiety, making me laugh.

“Actually,” I say turning to look at her, “I think we’ll give him two more minutes and then go in and fish him out.”  She seems almost as relieved as I am at the prospect.  Finally, a plan that makes sense. 

It’s been 11 minutes.  I’m just about to park for real, when I see him.  Running through the sliding doors, bag in hand, face flushed, and looking like he just scaled the summit of Everest.  Victory.  Growth.  Creamer. 

I am proud and surprised and inexplicably sad. This moment is small, but oh-so-big in its bittersweetness. And as I pull away from the store, Addison softly twangs a little tune she belted out in white cap and gown at her preschool graduation only 48 hours earlier:

1, 2, 3…like a bird I sing.
You’ve given me,
the most beautiful set of  wings. 
I’m so glad you’re here today,
Cause tomorrow I might have to go and fly away.
Fly away…fly away…

And the Oscar for Best Actress in a Drama goes to…

I lost Addison at the soccer game on Monday night.  For 20 minutes.  And try as I might to find the funny in that, I’m really just not there yet.

You know what parents always say, “I just looked away for a minute.”  Well, it was definitely a minute.  Or less.  One second she was standing at the fence behind me with a little friend, and the next she was gone.  After calmly scanning the field and checking all the standard hiding places (e.g., the bathroom), there was absolutely no sign of her.  I started trolling the school’s campus, calling for her and wondering where that little girl had gotten to.  But as the minutes ticked by and every new spot turned up empty. I started to get hysterical.  This could not be happening.  Not. On. My. Watch.

Two fabulous fathers posing as baseball coaches saw me near the playground.  I suppose the look of abject terror clued them in.  “You lose somebody? We’re on it.” Cell phones clicked open and pickup trucks moved out to canvas the grounds.  God love a small town where everyone knows everyone.

Ultimately, we did find her.  And I got to have my Lifetime movie moment.  You know the one where I finally see her and drop to my knees sobbing to gather her in my arms?  Truly, I expect a call from the Academy within 72 hours.

It turns out, she had gone to the far side of the soccer field into the trees with her friend.  According to Addison, she was being held under duress by the 6-year-old.  When the other girl’s mother finally located them, she couldn’t see me.  So she (correctly) found her father on the soccer field and copped a post-game bag of Goldfish and a juice box.

I guess I’m still a little embarrassed about calling in the Calvary and letting Crazy Mommy come out to play.  But really, there’s nothing more horrifying than the realization that your baby could be gone.  For good. 

Quote of the night from the big brother:

“Addison, if somebody is trying to make you go away from Mommy or Daddy, you’ve got to fight, yell, kick and scream.  It’s better to be safe than nice every time.”

That child…I swear to God, he takes it all into his 8-year-old brain and turns it into his own personal life vest.  Here’s hoping he’s always just around the corner to keep his risk-taker of a sister from diving off the side of the ship.

I’ve got a grip on Guilt…A nice tight one.

Wicked Witch of the West (aka Guilt)

Guilt is a witch.  Yes, generally I like to keep things light and tidy around here, but honest-to-southern-dust, there is no other word for her.  She is a certifiable, pointy-hat-wearing, broomstick driving, warty-faced stalker.  And I oughta know. 

I first met Guilt when I was 7 years old, at a party thrown by Irish nuns in the basement of Sacred Heart Cathedral.  The theme for this little soiree was ‘Preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.’  There was no wine (which frankly, I found odd), but there were definitely streamers.  And talk of white veils and shiny shoes, so I was totally in. 

At the time, framed by the glow of candlelit tissue paper pom-poms, Guilt seemed grating but relatively harmless. I mean, she called a lot during my teens and 20s, but when the chips were down, I could ignore her. 

Until I became a mother. 

Now Guilt is the naggiest little 3-year-old on the planet, chatting incessantly in my ear and lurking around every corner with a spray can full of industrial-strength ‘you suck.’   I’m not looking for pity.  Or the number for the suicide hotline.  I’m just trying to set the stage for a fun-filled, and oh-by-goddess (hopefully) interactive episode of ‘True Confessions.’   

Haven’t you ever wished you had some nice virtual friend to whom you could spill your parental guts?  Well, here’s your chance.  I’ll go first.  And if at the end, you could just do that little crossy thing with your hand and tell me to go in peace, I’d appreciate it.  I’m parochially-programmed to believe anyone that even remotely acts like they’ve got God on speed dial. 

So here we go…I’d like to start you off easy with something like, “I feel guilty for using the pretty, personalized return address labels from St. Jude’s without sending any money help cure kids with cancer,” but we’ve got eight years worth of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it before one of us gets distracted. 

Stay with me until the end and I promise to be the Almighty Absolver for you too.  I’m really good at it.  We used to role play in the church basement.

10 Things I Am REALLY Sorry About:

  1. My inability to control a raging case of postpartum Tourette’s Syndrome that may or may not have had me nose-to-nose with a 10-week-old infant, frantically screeching, “What the @*$% do you WANT from me?!”  (Go on, say you never did it.  I won’t believe you.  Actually, I probably would. And it would make me feel worse. Which is just what Guilt wants.  Hag.)
  2. Seriously considering and maybe even writing more than one eBay listing to sell cute, but almost constantly wailing babies to the highest bidder. 
  3. Calling my mother to tell her that “I know why people shake their babies.”  (The first three months are hard, people.)
  4. Many failed attempts at self-editing that have resulted in requests for small people to “put a sock in it.” (See #1 for more info on how this got started.)
  5. Dropping my son off at school 2 minutes late.  For the 26th time this year.  Yes, I have issues with promptness.  Sister Marianne would tell me that not correcting this behavior indicates a lack of genuine remorse, which therefore means I cannot be forgiven.  Nuns are total hard-asses.
  6. Pulling dirty soccer jerseys out of the hamper, conducting cursory spot removal and passing them off as clean.  I’m fairly certain that while this does not constitute a direct breach of the 9th Commandment, it’s still a lot like lying.
  7. Agreeing with ‘someone’ that their cough could…might even definitely be… some awful cold that can only be cured by a half-dose of Benadryl.  Even when I know it’s not true.  Just to get the little person to go to BED, already!!  (Please do not call Child Services, this only happened once.  Three times, tops.  But ‘someone’ survived just fine and probably got the first three good nights of sleep she’s had since birth.  In her own bed.)
  8. ‘Misplacing’ one child or the other for anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 minutes at a stretch at Sears, Target, the water park and the soccer field.  Those little suckers are quick, I tell you.
  9. Agreeing with the youngest child that perhaps a new family is in order.  And offering my services to help her find one.  Tonight.  NOT after a healthy dinner and a good night’s sleep.
  10. Backing over my oldest child with the SUV and maiming him for life on my way to get him at the bus stop.  No, not really.  But I think about it every time I leave the driveway to pick him up.  And for a split-second the guilt, fear and heartbreak are so rawly present that it kind of seems real.  (How’s THAT for taking maternal guilt and paranoia to all new heights?)

There.  I feel much better.  Your turn.  (WAIT!  You did do the crossy thing with your hand, right?  Because I already said like five Hail Marys and one especially sincere Act of Contrition.)

Annual Performance Review (aka Mother’s Day)

I have to be honest, given the comments I received during last year’s performance review, I approached Mother’s Day 2010 with trepidation.  I mean, “I love you even when you yell at me” (Griffin, 2009) is not exactly a glowing assessment.  Even if it is just a slightly modified version of the assurance I regularly deliver when they’ve pushed the button clearly marked, ‘Mommy Harpie: Activate at Your Own Risk.” 

You see, when I applied for this job, I was under the impression that once annually the little people I carried, birthed and have subsequently bathed, fed, clothed and loved, would overlook my occasional fall from maternal grace and throw me a bone.  Preferably one wrapped in colorful tissue paper with a tag reading, “To the best Mommy EVER.”  Not so.  Kids give it to you straight every time, my friend.  So if you’re looking for a stellar review, it’s best to let them have ring pops before dinner, at least in the week preceding your evaluation. 

So anyway, the 2010 ratings came in yesterday, and let me tell you, I am still wiping the stick of ring pop from my cheek and heaving a sigh of relief.  Turns out, with commitment, dedication and patience rivaling that of Mother Teresa, it IS possible to achieve the rank of ‘Top Performer.’  Witness the evidence: 

Griffin's Mother's Day Card, 2010

Exhibit A (From Griffin): I do read a lot, but I'm guessing he was running out of fine attributes to list here.

Griffin's Mother's Day Letter 2010

Exhibit B (From Griffin): In case you can't read it, it says Marvelous, Outstanding, Terrific, Halarias, Extra Ordinary at writing, Respectful Mother. In the whole wide world. I wonder, did he mean extraordinary or extra ordinary?

 

Mother's Day flowers from Addison

Exhibit C (From Addison): Step off, Martha Stewart. The four-year-old made these with her own "one hand." From pipe cleaners and construction paper. Boo-yah.

 

Addison's Mother's Day Card 2010

Exhibit D (From Addison): The fingerprints poem gets me every time.

And finally… 

Addison's Mother's Day Letter 2010

Exhibit E (From Addison): Is there any more to know, really?

All jokes aside, I had a lovely Mother’s Day replete with kisses, hugs and a veritable plethora of kind words uttered lovingly on my behalf.  The husband (bless him) even offered up a mani-pedi-massage combo complete with his own assessment.  I believe his exact words during the dinner toast were, “I am grateful to have such a..blah, blah…wonderful family…blah, blah, and beautiful wife who is such an excellent mother to my children.”   It just doesn’t get much better than that, does it? 

So tell me, please, how was your Mother’s Day?  I hope it was as divine as mine.  If not, don’t dismay.  Those people usually come around in 4-8 years.  And when they finally do, it’s worth the wait.

A letter to my daughter

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

Addison takes a lot of flak from the common folk in our house for her diva-like behavior and natural aptitude for dictatorship.  But really, there’s so much more to her than a proclivity towards reigning supreme over the world around her.   

I recently came across a letter I wrote to her three years ago, on the eve of a vacation the rest of the family was taking to Colorado.  We were leaving Addison in the capable hands of Grandma.  But being a mother that can go from skinned-knee to amputation-worthy staff infection in less than 60 seconds, I was worried.  What if…I mean just what IF something happened?  How would this (then) 18 month old baby know how it felt to love her?  

I know it’s crazy.  But hey, that’s how I roll.  So I did the only thing I could do short of cancelling the flight and peeling my husband down off the ceiling:  I wrote.  

Reading it now, I realize that every word is as true today as it was three years ago.  So in honor of Mother’s Day and the very special relationships women have with each other everywhere, I wanted to post it.   

Random, semi-associated thought:  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could extend to ourselves the love, acceptance and generosity of spirit that we all feel for our daughters?  What kind of women would we be?  And what kind women would we raise?   They are important questions worth considering.  Happy Day to all you Mom’s out there…   

Addison, age 1

Baby girl,  

Mommy, Daddy, and Griffin are leaving for Colorado today.  We’ll be gone for a whole week.  That seems like such a long time to be away from you.  But Grandma has volunteered to be here with you so that you can stay on a schedule and not get sick on the plane.  You’ll probably never read this letter because I’m sure we’ll all come home safe and be together with you again, but there are some things I want you to know, just in case.  

You are beautiful. I put this first not because it’s the most notable thing about you, or because it’s the most important, but because women (yes, all women) have a tendency to wonder about this throughout their lives.  People stop me all the time to admire you and tell me just how lovely you are.  

Addison, age 2

 You have countless exquisite physical attributes, but you have been especially blessed with what your daycare teachers fondly refer to as ‘junk in the trunk.’  Who knows if you’ll keep that gorgeous booty, or just walk it off and become a skinny mini like your brother.  But remember, attractiveness isn’t just about what you see in the mirror.  It’s about what’s on the inside.  Whatever your body looks like in 15, 20 or 30 years, I hope you find a way to see the beauty that others will undoubtedly always see in you.  You are the total package, baby.  Listen to Mama, I’ve learned a few things over the years. 

Addison, age 3

 Addison, you are my wild thing — free, spontaneous, outspoken, funny and loving.  From the moment you were born, you knew what you liked and didn’t like…wanted and didn’t want.  You eat life up, you love it so.  Trust your instincts and you will always be OK.   

And another thing…have as many experiences as you can in life.  Try everything at least once. (OK…almost everything…we’ll talk more about this later.)  Don’t waste your time worrying or trying to do everything exactly right.   Happiness is not a place you end up someday, it’s a series of choices that you make.  You can start making the choice to be happy any time you want.  

Finally, you need to know that loving you and your brother and being your mother is the most wonderful, important thing I have ever done in my life.  The two of you…you take my breath away.  Nothing in my power would ever keep me away from you.  You are a miracle.  I loved you the moment I first saw you, all pink and covered in gunk.  Even if you can’t see me, I will always be with you, watching over you and loving you.  Be good, sweet girl.   

Hugs & kisses,  

Mommy  

Addison, age 4

%d bloggers like this: