Learning To Fly

The first time I got on an airplane, I was an unaccompanied minor. Except that back then, there really wasn't anything called 'unaccompanied minors' and I was accompanied by my older brother and my two very little siblings. Eddie sat way up somewhere else on the plane and I sat with J & J, making sure they ate their Kudos bars and didn't spill their many airplane-sized cups of soda.

Eventually, they just gave us the cans. You can get anything on an airplane if you whine enough.

I never did fly with an adult in all the times I've flown back and forth, Philly to Denver, parent-hopping my way through my childhood. And that never seemed like an issue at all; I mean, it's getting on a plane, sitting down for three hours and getting off the plane - not rocket science. I was 13 whole years old, I knew everything, and I found flying to be intoxicating.

Now, actually flying the plane is a little bit like rocket science, and since I always loved flying so much, when I had the opportunity, I learned how to fly them myself. I have yet to find anything as exhilarating and freeing and close to godly as piloting an airplane. Maybe I haven't done much with my life, maybe I've never seen the world, maybe I've never even seen Detroit, but at least I've flown airplanes.

But the problem, for me at least, with knowing how to fly the airplane is that now I know every single thing that can go south, literally, when trying to keep a few tons of metal aloft. Knowing how to do it took the magic out of it for me, and made me the world's worst airplane passenger. Learning how to drive made me the world's worst auto passenger, too. Really, ask my husband. My complete inability to sit in the passenger seat and not completely freak the fuck out has almost driven that poor man to the divorce lawyer.

I think that if I'd just not learned how to fly an airplane, I wouldn't be sitting here right now shivering inside while my husband sits at a gate with our sons, waiting to load them up on a plane and send them to Denver for two weeks. I wouldn't be going through all the worst case scenarios in my head, if only I didn't know what they are. I wouldn't be worrying about whether or not they can get oxygen masks over their faces, or whether or not they will whine their way into cans of Sprite.

Or maybe I would. Maybe I would because those are my babies, and they're going 1500 miles away from me, where I won't be there if someone falls off a bike and scrapes their knees, where I can't come get them if it turns out that they don't still get along with the best friends they left behind four years ago when we left Denver. That powerless feeling I get every time I buckle my seat belt and put my tray table up for take-off isn't much different from the powerless feeling I'm getting sending my sons into the world on their own for two weeks.

But I guess the best things in life are the ones that leave you feeling helpless - like motherhood, like launching yourself through clouds and over mountains, like letting go.  I never knew how to see the world until I saw it from a few thousand feet up, and maybe I don't know how to see my kids for the little men that they are until I see them from a few thousand miles away. I guess it's time to let them go. I supposed I have to let them go, and trust that I taught them how to put mud on a bee sting and ask politely for sodas and behave even when I'm not watching.

It took me a while, but I learned how to fly. It's taking me a while, but I'm trying to learn how to give my kids wings, too.

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.

Killing Me Softly With His Room

Both of my boys slept in our bed with us until they were right around 4 months old.  You will never meet anyone in your whole life more against the concept of co-sleeping, but come off it.  Those first months don't count, AT ALL.

Anyway, they slept with us and when 2of3 was 4 months old, making 1of3 27 months old, they embarked on the great journey called SHARING A ROOM.  Bunk beds are as important in our world as toilet paper.  Maybe more so.  I won't elaborate.  You're welcome.  When they were 1 and 3, we moved into a house with 3 big ol' bedrooms, and we offered them their own rooms.  They declined, loudly.  We continued to offer them their own rooms until we scaled down to a 2 bedroom apartment, and they had no choice.  Sucks to be them.

They've never been bothered by sharing a room; I don't think they can imagine it any other way, really.  I shared a room with both my brothers until I was 6, and I LOVED it.  Excepting the occasional sleepover, they have bunked down together for every one of the past 2,972 nights.

Tonight, we're resetting the counter.  Tonight, they sleep in separate rooms.   And not just because I chained one of them to the radiator in the basement, either.

We live in a 4-ish story townhouse, with a den/rec room/whatever at ground level, a main level with the living room/kitchen/dining room and-or family room depending, a bath on the next 1/2 level, the upper level with 2 bedrooms and the master suite, and then another bathroom on the top 1/2 level.  Long story short, we have three bedrooms.  The boys share the middle one, and that's fine, but they're getting BIG.  Their stuff is getting big.  Their clothes are big.  Their shoes are huge.  And they're old enough that they need a little *cough* personal time every now and then.  The room they share isn't big enough unless I stack the bunks, and then only barely, and if I stack the bunks, I have to make the beds, and fuck that shit.

I decided yesterday to use the dining room as a den area, just like everyone else in my 'hood does, and clear out the basement.  And put my 10 year old in it. 2of3 protested wildly.  He said that it wasn't fair, that they had pillow fights every single night and how could I take that away from him?  He said he couldn't sleep alone because the closet scared him.  And then tonight he saw a room with none of his stink-ass older brother's crap in it, and he promptly sold the fuck out.

Guess who is currently freaking out?  Me, that's who, and it was MY idea.

My baby isn't 20 feet from me anymore.  If he wheezes at night, I won't hear it.  If he has to pee, he'll have to climb two flights of stairs.  If he has a bad dream, he'll have to climb three flights of stairs IN THE DARK to get to me.  If he wanted to sneak babes in, I'd never know.  When the zombies come to eat our brains in the middle of the night, they'll get him first.

My basement is not in any way set up to be a bedroom.  We're going to have to get a room divider and a wardrobe, and he's going to have to use a space heater in the winter.  That is, of course, a really old woman's perspective.  All he sees in his own desk, his own bookshelves, his own crap on the walls, and his independence.  He sees privacy, and I see a growing man in a little body that used to sleep, happily, curled up in one of my arms in the middle of my bed.

I can almost not even picture that baby anymore, and I rejoice for him, but it's kind of killing me slowly.  I'm just not ready, yo.  I'm starting to think I never will be.