This Week in the End of Denial, Folk Music, and Fight Club

My son has a lot of band concerts as we come to the end of the year. There are regional competitions he has to participate in; the cumulation of so many god damn hours before school and after school and on the weekends, and his band is kicking major ass through them all. 

He has to wear a tux top, black slacks, and black shoes, which makes him look awkwardly like his father (only really awkward for me, for obvious reasons I'd rather not say and make real *shudder*).

He's been wearing his dad's pants and shoes, which has allowed me to imagine him tiny, playing dress up in dad's old work outfits, and has kept reality at a lovely little bay. 

But now the band shows are coming hard and heavy, and so we took him out to get his own black dress shoes and slacks. Oh, hai, reality, your baby actually *did* grow up and no, that foot wearing a shoe one full size larger than mine now will never again fit inside my mouth. 

Matthew 13:42. That's all I'm saying about that. 

And while his father and he were busy fucking my entire imaginary life, this gongshow happened. 

    We can just go right ahead and file that under "Shit That Was Not in the Original Contract."

He sat on my knee and looked at me with those gorgeous green eyes and he promised me he'd stay little forever and I looked it up - staying little forever does not include doing Movember with all his friends next year.

The good news is that I got to have a lime and a coconut and a sleepover with my Texas bestie, which, contrary to the song, is exactly what the doctor ordered.  

I was also interviewed on ABC News about letting my kids practice MMA, which while not exactly an extreme sport by my definition, is extremely awesome and hopefully maybe a few other people will realize that.

This is me, trying to save the world - one bloody nose and molestache at a time. 

Cleanliness is Next To Godliness and Apparently, God Wants You to be Miserable

I grew up poor, and when I say I grew up poor, I don't mean that I could only afford the knock-off Caboodles; I mean that I wore my brother's old underwear and my gross annual income was the exact same as my husband's current net. MONTHLY.

We ate whatever we could get our filthy little hands on, we perfected the art of reusing grocery store paper bags for our trash cans and we wore whatever was given to us.

Usually, we looked like absolute trash.

The problem with that is simply that children reach a certain age when they stop caring at all about what they look like, right in between the "I got dwessed all by myselfes!" phase and before the "I'm getting laid, dammit" phase, and couple that with some significant levels of poverty and the daily dumpster dive for discarded treasures (one man's trash, yo) (is still just trash) (but is more fun to dig through rotten fruit and old coffee beans for than reading the fucking Bible) (again) and you have some stank-ass children.

My middle brother's feet smelled exactly like week old vomit, all the time. Not kidding.

One of the little rich-bitches that I lived near growing up, who's family was probably in the same income bracket as I am now, but whom then seemed like she, as all of those girls seemed to me, was dripping in Hamilton's, she asked me why I looked so much better than my little brother and sister all the time and the only answer I could come up with was that I cared enough to try.

My children do not share my dedication to personal appearance in the face of great adversity. Perhaps because I stopped caring enough to try once I could afford not to. Or perhaps because fuck if those yoga pants aren't the most comfortable things ever invented.

My children are lucky enough to not have the slightest inkling as to what the words hunger or need mean, but they are still disgusting little piggies, and it infuriates me. Of course, I am that mother that is all, "when I was a little kid" and "you have no idea how good you have it" and it infuriates them. We are at an impasse.

My oldest son is full-on in the middle of fucking puberty, which makes me feel so old I kind of want to see how much I'd go for at Sotheby's, and means that he is having all sorts of issues with his T zone. And he knows what a T zone is, which means he's only a few months years away from knowing what a G spot is and that will officially be the last mythical thing he believes in and my job will be OVER.

I've fully lost my train of thought here.

Oh, that's he's almost too big to cuddle but is far and away big enough for me to smell, all the time, everywhere I go, even when he's not there, and it's wigging me out.

Yesterday, I made him let me groom him. Death. By. Mother. I might as well have grabbed a coat hanger and started ranting about how hard I work and dishrags or something. I brushed his teeth, properly, made him floss AND rinse, and then I *gasp* washed his face. WITH NOXEMA. Sorry if I don't want to spend the next 6 years looking for my son's gorgeous face under a blanket of oozey pimples, but I didn't gain one hundred and five pounds for him to run around looking like semen-filled bubble wrap.

He's got my skin, which means he's either very oily or Sarhara dry, so Noxema is just about his only real option. And it smells like yo gramma, which is awesome. So I slathered him up, taught him how to wipe it all off, gave him his very own pint-sized tub of Noxema for his bathroom, and then basked in the glory of his perfectly soft, clear skin for one whole day.

Later that night, I watched him reading his book and I couldn't help myself. I reached out and rubbed his little cheek, and then told him how beautiful his skin looked. He told me that was the worst thing I've ever said to him in his whole life.

And that is music to any mother's ears.

They're Getting To Big To Cuddle, Or Jamie Foxx Can Kiss My Grits

We sat together on the porch the other night, my husband and I, and under starry skies Mr Rationally Unemotional gazed squarely into the eyes of Ms. Happy Go Medicated and asked, "When exactly did they grow up? I mean, really; it wasn't supposed to happen this fast."  And all I could muster in reply was, "I dunno, but I think it was a while ago."

Earlier that day, I'd called one of 2of3's buddies who was rumoured to be having a pool party, and after confirming with the boys mother that it was all a big big fake fake lie, she told me about a letter she'd found in her son's room. It was a letter that 2of3 had written to the girl he has a crush on, and she asked if she could read it to me, on the condition that I never tell him she had. Um, of course? Hit me, yo.

He said (and I'm more or less quoting here) that he needed to tell her how he felt, which was that he loved her, and that loving her meant that when he sees her, it's as though he's seeing an angel and when he's near her, it's as though he's close to heaven. And, of course, that if she liked him back, he'd like it if she wrote him back.

Holy poet, Batman. Not bad for nine, I'd say. But when did he learn those sorts of analogies? When did he learn to feel so strongly for another person? When did he learn how to write?

We all say things like Oh, It Goes So Fast and It'll Be Over Before We Know It but then one day something smacks you upside the head like your child being able to effectively woo and it's different from the first words or steps or loose teeth because there isn't one stinking pediatrician in the world with a chart that graphs the proper ages for sonnet-writing and zombie-movie-appreciation and cursing-in-context and breakouts. It's just stuff you never, ever see coming and when it does come, they're doing everything in their power to hide that shit from you. Because once they become independent people, internally, they don't exactly take a minute and say, "You know what, mom? You've been awesome, and really...thanks for the womb rental, it was totally cozy in there, but I think it's time for us to go our separate ways. Except, could you maybe still wash my colors and make me an occasional casserole? I'll be sure to hug you once in a while and maybe throw you the random bone in return. Speaking of which, I'm the lead in the school play. Tomorrow."

They don't tell you this because they know you'll be all, "Dude? What the barnacles? You know I was on set crew for years in high school, right? Can I help you run your lines tonight? Do you need a costume? Is it a romantic lead? Do you KISS A GIRL?" How's the set? Do you need me to run up there with my hot glue gun and some foam core..." and then they'll have to look you in the eyes and say, "Woman, you are so totally missing the point of this conversation" and then you'll start to cry a little at the unfairness of the whole thing and no one wants to see their mother cry so instead, they just sit silently in the front seat of the car with their cap pulled all the way down over their eyes and their shoulders so hunched in together, you wonder if someone hadn't installed hinges on their spine when you weren't looking and they save themselves a whole lot of headache.

And you never, ever know they've grown up, until they have. Or until you send them outside to clean the car one fine Saturday morning.

And as they clean the car, they ask for the keys which they properly get into the ignition just enough to turn on that radio station, the one your mother hated you listening to when you were little, and they sing along to all their favorite songs while they work and you listen. You listen, and you remember sitting in your room, waiting for Dick Clark* to announce the next track, which was some amazingly crafted piece of music that was clever and important and relevant, like The Humpty Dance, and so you let them have their moment. You've, of course, already had the talk with them about that Britney girl, and how though you aren't one to censor their music, that tramp just can never come into your home in any fashion. They've asked why and you've asked them to quote the hook in her newest single and they've said, "But all the boys and all the girls are dying to, If U Seek Amy" and you've asked them what If U Seek Amy spells and even let them say the word, because you've  learned that when you're trying to make A Crucial Parenting Point, a properly-placed f-bomb tends to make or break the argument. And when they sheepishly say Fuck, because they're not entirely sure this isn't a trap, and then you ask them what Fuck means and they really just don't know, so you tell them it means sex and that means that a young woman is singing into the radio that all the boys and all the girls are dying to have sex with her, they get it. They instantly hate that song and that girl because they're still just young enough to not want to have sex with anyone yet, and thank you Jebus for that.

So you listen, knowing that they'll change it if they feel they have to, and then Jamie Foxx's new single comes on the station and you grind your teeth into dust because he's not saying anything awful that you can make out, he's doesn't seem to be swearing or talking down on women and he's not screaming Fuck The Police just like your favorite group at their age did, so you feel like you've got to let this one slide even though your nine year old whom you've just realized is in L.O.V.E. is bopping around, scrubbing the wheel-wells with his still-just-a-little-pugdy fingers, singing Blame it on the vodka, blame it on the henny. Blame it on the blue tap got you feeling dizzy. Blame it on the ah-ah-ah-alcohol, blame it on the ah-ah ah-ah ah-al-co-hol. And then you're all, Ooooh, that's when they grew up, when they started listening to the fucking Peak.

And when they're done, you have them inside with their four best tweenaged friends and the six of them watch The Sixth Sense, and you kind of smile a little because you realize you've reached the point where they can not only enjoy more intelligent, sophisticated and complicated things in life, but they can effectively filter out f-bombs in movies, which means the ensuing Summer of M. Night Shymalan is going to be so much more bearable than the previous Summer Of Home Alone was, and just when you're feeling pretty damn good about them growing up, you sit down to write a blog post about it and you google the lyrics to Jaime Foxx's newest single and then you have a heart attack and fucking die dead in your chair and then you decide that you all are moving back to Dutch Pennsylvania which is really close to where you grew up and were nobody so much as thinks what that man has throngs of children across North America belting out in their suburban driveways on chore day under cumulus clouds.

*For all you youngin's out there, Dick Clark is an evil, undead zombie vampire who, once upon a time, found the perfect genome for human cloning and his very first lab test resulted in evil personified. AND SQUARED. I believe it's commonly known as Ryan Seacrest these days.

What Rough Beast, Its Hour Come 'Round At Last...

A few people commented yesterday about the lying and how they thought it was worrisome*.  I, naturally, read those comments and nodded my head in agreement, but that idea had stuck with me all day today, tugging at my sleeve, and I'm not entirely sure why.  But I kept thinking about it, and I've come to one conclusion: I'm not worried about it.  In fact, I think I'd be worried if it wasn't happening.

I was at the park the other day with my neighbor and her kids.  She has a 2 year old and a newborn, both *just* their ages.  (Vile betrayer aside: My uterus lept out of my abdomen and made a grab for that newborn.  Stop it, bitch; we've talked about this.  You had your turn.)  Her 2 year old is the poster child for children.  He's the kid you dream about having.  There seriously isn't a better kid anywhere, and I'm totally comparing him against my own.  And, of course, he's two now, so he's suddenly becoming less that desirable company all the time.  At least insofar as she tells it.  I've never seen anything but halos and rainbows coming out of that boy.  Anyway, she was lamenting the passing of "the good kid".  She was telling me about his tantrums and his obstinence and how sad she was about it.  I, of course, was offering her an assload of advice she hadn't asked for instead of really listening, until she said this:

"I just miss how he was.  He was so perfect."

That, I heard.  That, I've said a million times myself.  THAT I actually knew the response to.  Which was this:

"Dude, he is perfect.  He's supposed to be doing this.  He's perfectly two, you know?  He HAS to do this."

And I firmly believe that.  I don't pretend to actually know anything about child-development, but what I've observed over the past decade plus is that kids have to test their relationships with us at pretty precise phases of their lives.  Two is the first one.  Three comes next, and it's just like two but with painfully great vocabulary.  Then there's the school-aged pull-away, and that one's gentler.  They need to do this to gain a sense of who they are and how they're going to relate to the world around them.  They have to separate from us slowly, in phases, and it's got to be hard and confusing at every phase.  OF COURSE they make us suffer.

We take it for granted that they'll walk at this age and talk at this age and cut teeth at this age and potty train at this age.  We stalk those statistics.  We compare them with other kids.  We talk to the doctor about them.  We totally ignore the fact that the attitude is part of that package, and I think it's a pretty damn important part.  It's not what they're doing, it's who they're becoming.

Granted, my kid isn't quite 11 yet, which may seem young to be hitting this next phase, but the sad truth is that he's right on target.  Like it or not, this puberty thing starts a hell of a lot earlier than it did for us.  (You'll thank me later aside: Bookmark that link.  You're going to need it someday.  It's the best resource I've ever found for kids on puberty.) He may not have the armpit hair just yet for his troubles, but good lord you should smell him.  He's been slouching towards puberty for several years now.  OF COURSE he's lying to me.

He's trying to find his own footing in the world right now.  He doesn't tell me how his day was anymore, he doesn't ask for my help with his homework anymore, I have to force a 5 second cuddle out of him at night, and he's got a PhD in eyerolling.  I am no longer cool.  AT ALL.  I am no longer funny or pretty or smart.  I am his mawwwwwm.  I am something he doesn't really want a whole lot to do with anymore.  Sure, he still seeks me out in the crowd at his basketball games, but god help me if I wave to him.  Sure, he still wants me to help out in his classroom, but only while he's at gym class.  He wants to know I'm around, he just doesn't actually want to see me.  And I have no doubt that he wasn't *this* much glad I'd busted him, for two reasons.  One: He had proof that I was looking.  Which means I care.  No matter how annoying that is for him, just like at his games.  Two: I got the message loud and clear that he's interested in moving on to the next level, the one where he can take over some of the choices I'm still holding on to for him, and he didn't have to talk to me about it.

Does it make any sense at all?  Hell no.  Does any adolescent child make any sense at all?  Hell no.  When I was barking right down his throat, I asked him, "Do you think your father and I were your age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this same sort of thing?"  And then I realized that no, we weren't his age so very long ago that we can't remember doing this stuff.  I totally remember doing this stuff, the little lies, the small deceptions.  It was important to me, to my self esteem, to my image of myself to be able to pull off the small victories.  I needed to carve my own path, you know, and so does he.

So maybe it's time to loosen the leash a notch or two.  Maybe he's ready for the next step, whether or not I am.  I wasn't ready for him to walk, either, but he sure had to do that.  All I've hoped for with these kids is that they'll grow up to be humble, to be kind, to be sensible and to be their own men.  I don't want them to be "my sons" forever, I want them to go into the world and do something, be something, of their own making.  I want to be the foundation of their lives, not the walls.  And that's beginning, my role is starting to shift.  Just so long as he knows that I know, and that I'm watching however silently, I think we'll get through this phase just fine, as well.  That, and a parental controls blocker set to DefCon 5.

Because really?  I see porn on my laptop once, and someone goes to military school.

*You gals don't mind that I'm replying to you comments with another post do you?  I sure hope not.