Monday, June 29, 2015

3 Mistakes My Mother Made With Me (Sorry, Mom) That I Don't Want To Make With My Daughters

Of all the things I do for my daughters, I wonder how many will actually be remembered.

Don't get me wrong.  Everything I do, from stroking their feverish foreheads all night to slaving for hours over cake pops that will never look a thing like they do on Pinterest, is done completely out of love.  I don't keep a tally nor do I leave Post-It Note reminders of the moments I hope will be remembered.  Still, I wonder.  And here's why.

My daughters and I recently planted Venus Fly Trap and Sundew Savage seeds into a terrarium complete with red and blue LED lights.  As we read aloud about everything from the most fertile soil to seedlings that would eventually become carnivores, my husband entered the room and asked if my mother did as much stuff with me as I do with my 5 and 7 year olds.  While I know for sure that she did, I can recall only a select few times.

I can, however, remember in great detail the few things she did that really upset me.  For example:

1)         I come from a large family full of hockey players.  Boys learned as babies how to ice skate with chairs on homemade, backyard rinks before moving up to peewee leagues, high school state championships and Division I collegiate teams.  So, growing up in a home where the smell of a musty hockey bag was just as familiar as that of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, it should come as no surprise that I (literally) wanted a piece of the game.  But no sooner did I tell my parents that I wanted to be an ice hockey goalie than my mother put me in skates of my own.  Unfortunately though, they were figure skates.  Those frilly lessons were very short-lived.  Eventually I gave up not only on pestering my parents, but on dreaming to play the sport.  That is, until I entered my freshman year at Boston College just as they were developing their women's team.  I remind my mother to this day that had I been allowed to play, allowed to pursue my dream, I just may have had a chance at a scholarship.  She responds, very adamantly I might add, that what we'd have saved in my tuition, we'd have spent in my dental bills.  (Touché, Mom. Touché.)

2)         I was a very private teenager, or at least I tried to be. My mother was the kind that almost always knew exactly what was happening in my life without my having to say a word, so much so that I prided myself on her being incorrect.  So when my very first junior high yearbook came home with what I considered insanely personal inscriptions from all my friends, I begged her not to read them.  Little did I know at the time that begging the parent of a teenager not to do something almost always guarantees that they will do just that.  Immediately.  Therefore when I found her reading the messages, which couldn't have been any more racy than Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, I was mortified.  To this day, I have vowed not to do the same to my daughter (or at least not to get caught).

3)         When my brother was a senior at boarding school, my parents helped he and his friends put together a winter break co-ed ski trip.  I remember vividly hearing my mother put the security deposit for a condo on her credit card while making arrangements for my brother to have her four-wheel drive vehicle for the trek.  As a much better student and a mere fraction of the trouble my brother was, I anxiously awaited the day my parents would offer me the same arrangement.  So when time came to plan a similar getaway for my friends, I was shocked to learn there'd be no such offering.  Determined to know why, I asked my mother repeatedly for an explanation as to how my brother could receive such preferential treatment.  Frustrated with my persistence and at the end of her rope, my mother finally screamed her frighteningly honest answer.  "Because your brother can't get pregnant!"  (Go ahead.  Gasp.)

I do honestly believe the sweetest moments shared with my mother are the ones that shaped me into the mother and woman I am today.  However, they've really all merged to become more the memory of one happy, inspired childhood than a collection of individually blessed experiences.  Sadly, it's the ugly ones that still stand out.

No one wants to be remembered more for their weaknesses than their strengths.  In parenting, especially for a good parent (and my mother was an amazing one), I can imagine no greater injustice.

I'd like to say that I learned from (what I deemed as) my mother's mistakes, especially the few described above.  I'd also like to believe I will never make a similar decision that will hurt or haunt my daughter into adulthood, but I know that will never happen.  In fact, I don't want it to happen.  For if it does, I've likely failed her in some way.

So please, will one of you remind my daughter of that when she is a teenager?

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Gift I Got From Getting Robbed

I'm going way back with this story...

Joe and I had been married a couple of years and were living in our first Los Angeles apartment.  I was driving a black Tahoe, my favorite non-Maserati car until they changed the body a few years ago.

I walked out of our house and into our nice neighborhood, to my car that'd been parked on the street overnight.  Reaching into my bag for the key (yes, we used actual keys back then) I noticed a small crack in the fiberglass surrounding the keyhole.

I took a walk around the car and noticed no other visible damage.  But anticipating that I may put the body repair through my car insurance, I wanted documentation of the damage.

I got into my car and called the police department to file a report.  The officer explained that with even just that small crack, a thief could have entered the car.  "Is anything missing?", he asked.  I quickly checked the stereo, CD holder (God, I'm old), sunglass holder and change compartment.  I assured him everything was intact.

"Are you sure nothing is missing from the car?", the officer repeated.  "It's all here," I answered.

I hung up the phone, started the engine and looked over my shoulder before backing the car out of it's space.  That's when I noticed that my entire third row seat was missing.

Dialing the police department right back, I asked to speak with the same officer who'd taken the initial report.  He laughed as I explained my discovery of the missing chairs.  Apparently third row seats for that car were a hot item on the black market and the moment I'd relayed the vehicle's make and model, the officer knew exactly what the thieves were going for.

My mind was a little blown- partly because we lived in a highly populated area with a lot of nightlife and neighbors milling about 24/7, but also because there had to have been at least 3 people on the job to lift the monstrous seat and get it into a pickup truck.

What assholes.  Ninja-like assholes.

The insurance claim was filed and the seats were replaced without a hitch.  Still, I've thought about that morning several times in the decade since it first occurred, for reasons other than what you might assume.  The message it leaves with me is nothing about theft or car insurance.  The lesson is way greater than that.  When I think of what happened that morning, I remember one thing.

I didn't look back.

Simply put, had I looked behind me, I'd have known from the start what was missing.

Lately life has felt to me like a race to the finish line.  Everyone wants to have the best run, the best time, the biggest win.  And people are afraid to back, for fear that it will slow their forward momentum.

My experience has been just the opposite.  It's only in looking back that I learn from past experiences and have an opportunity moving forward to grow from them.

Looking back, that officer did way more than take an incident report.