Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, Home again, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Mother as Nourisher

 

They’re 18 and 23, and they don’t live with me anymore, but if we’re eating together, or worse yet if I’m simply watching them eat, I’m compelled to get involved.

Aren’t you going to finish that?

Do you want more butter?

Does that need to be heated up?

Don’t you like the soup?

WTF!

And it’s not just loving, motherly attention I’m expressing, but anxiety. PTSD even.

As a mother of two, and as a lifelong early & elementary educator, and as the oldest of 8, not to mention being born FEMALE, I’ve attended to children at mealtimes since I was old enough to talk—from bottle-feeding to spoon-feeding to fixing meals and to taking my youngest siblings (and later nephews & nieces) out to Pizza Hut long before I had any kids of my own.

Over the weekend my husband and I went out for brunch–with our grown kids–and we were seated near two different tables, each holding a mother and a young son and no one else. It was adorable.

At the table closest to us, the mother had a fruit cup and her child had waffles or pancakes or french toast (I can’t remember which). At the other table, it was the child who had the fruit cup while the mother had yogurt with granola. I noticed this and something else on my way to the bathroom.

The child with fruit was on a device.

“Did you see those two tables?” my husband later said as we were walking to our car. “I felt so sad about the mother who missed out on talking to her kid.”

I paused before I replied, and then I suggested that perhaps my husband had a gender bias/blindness, unaware of how demanding it is on mothers to eat out with their children.

My favorite scene about this parental gender differential is one that takes place at the dinner table with the Incredibles. For years, I dropped this phrase on my husband:

BOB, it’s time to ENGAGE.

“Maybe that mother and child had a really good connection before breakfast,” I said. “Maybe they’re going out for a hike afterward. Maybe this was her only quiet moment of the day.”

Our own kids were device free and maybe that had been a mistake. Maybe I would have been more relaxed if they were more fully occupied without my attention at the table.

That said, I have two lasting memories of eating out with my youngest son when he was a boy: There was the morning I had tea and he had waffles at the restaurant attached to the Butterfly Museum (because we had mistakenly arrived before it opened), and there was the first time he tried sushi and to my surprise loved it.

I remember being in Japan for work and dining at a traditional restaurant where no one spoke any English and I was served a breakfast on a tray with a dozen ceramic dishes of mostly unrecognizable foods without any directions on how to use or not use the accompanying condiments.

I took cues from the small children at the table across from mine, thinking it more acceptable to stare at them then at a table with only adults.

They ate, like everyone else in the restaurant, almost silently, without a fuss, tasting everything on the tray, for a meal that lasted as long as a fancy dinner might.

Maybe my husband was right. Maybe that other mom was missing out. Maybe she was on the road and needed a break. Both mothers and sons seemed to enjoy a relaxing meal. I admired them both and was grateful to be eating with grownups.

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Posted in (Actual) Empty Nest, College, Home again, Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Mother to Crone, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Blink!

Though it doesn’t make it hurt any less to look into their dark and vacant rooms, It turns out that they leave home at just the right time.

You’re getting older.
Noises bother you.
Lights. Chaos. Commotion.

You realize you’ve run a marathon and you’re not sure how you did it.

You’re more and more attracted to simplicity, ease, slow.

Exhale.
Inhale.
Exhale.

They’re home!

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Old Yeller

It turns out that I resent my children for aging out of our lives.

This is a surprise, because I was never one of those moms who wished the kids stayed little forever.

I always liked when they aged.

New beginnings and all.

And I am really looking forward to belonging to myself again. To rediscovering what that means.

So why this hostility?
This grief?

How does it hurt so much when I wouldn’t have it any other way?

These aren’t questions I’m asking my own heart. Questions that wake me into the moment so that I don’t miss it while hating them.

“I wish I never loved you at all,” I want to yell.
“LEAVE!”

Posted in College, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

Empty Nest Countdown…

august 10, eve of the new moon eclipse:

the night sky & i have companioned these two nights–first the museum lantern walk with my husband & son and then this evening’s solo soak in the woods tub–crickets sounding, Venus & Jupiter rising, bat circling overhead; this afternoon spent readying the home for the great transition–the last eclipse–Leo New Moon–Mother to Elder, “Dark of the moon, New beginnings, Dark of the moon, Plant a seed tonight,” the house aglow, welcoming letting go, the path to the back door still holding the day’s heat…

When, in two-weeks time, this new moon waxes full, 3 have become 2…
~

august 9, road trip, part I. & II.

“Mom, what do you want your tombstone to look like?”

~

Aidan talks to us about science & technology, non-stop, grilling us on what we don’t know (and don’t want to know)  “Preparing us for the future,” aka. shaming us for our ignorance, disinterest & fea

After much trial and error in search of an equally potent rebuttal topic (beyond “I taught you how to use a spoon and wipe your butt,”), I found the perfect one, something that is of little use to him, potentially aggravating and which I know more about.

(Thank you Vacation Bible School & Catholic higher ed.!)

~

august 7, looking back:


We were still in our twenties (and childless) on this day in 1993 when Casey and I left the sea for our new home in these Green Mountains.

both boys were conceived in this, our first house in Vermont, the longest I’d lived anywhere

both born in August, our youngest in the sweet room with the dormer and the louver window (aka. the small farmhouse bathroom), crowded with his father, his aunts, his big brother and not one, but two midwives with a dear friend looking on…

~
august 5, date night

filter play & ballet at the Retreat Farm with the bathroom baby, just after his 18th birthday

~

july 31, emptying

Aidan left town for a couple days which is a weird thing to say, but he will turn 18 in two days and that’s how it goes even if he has been our baby for so long which means we’ve aged him in our minds to about 13.

Won’t we be surprised in 3 weeks when he no longer lives here!

Which brings me to the dishwasher, almost full, even though it’s just been the two of us.

“If we time it right, we can get Aidan to empty it,” I joke to Casey after our quiet breakfast date on the porch, to which he replies:

“Let’s get as many empties out of him as we can before he goes.”

~

july 29, births

I wake to the bold, buttery-lemon bloom of the DAYLILY which cheers my weary countenance and immediately brings to mind our fair-haired, sky-eyed, LEO, born this week, 18 years ago, under the sign of the SUN; as too his older brother, but two weeks deeper into the month of August, with a darker complexion, much like the TIGER LILY, whose sunset hues, like the embers of a fire, welcome me home.

~
july 27, in a month’s time

This time next month will be a Monday, with all my guys back to school, but come evening, only one will return, and that will be a turning point for me Casey, just the two of us again, like we once were.

I expect searing pain, deep despair, and then something else, some new, precious, delight.

After we dropped our firstborn off to college a handful of years ago, it felt as if our family of four, reduced to three, limped away from Burlington, like all the families with younger siblings we saw around us.

I can’t fathom how it will feel to head home without either child.

~
july 25, un-nesting

Just before Aidan’s college orientation last week, I began filling a basket for him with teas and ointments and band-aids.

“I’m not ready for that,” he admonished me when I asked what else he might need; but I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop, so necessary was the ritual to meet the angst inside.

This week, I find myself retrieving items from the basket. A few packets of tea. The open mouthwash.

What was I thinking? He doesn’t leave for another month (exactly.)

I remember the morning his older brother was to return to school after the long winter break (or was it after the summer one?)

While he was still sleeping, I unpacked one heavy box into two smaller ones which made more sense not just because of the weight but because of the organization of similar items.

I felt much better after that, but I wasn’t surprised when he arrived downstairs to see what I had done and was furious.

First-borns like myself have such a need for autonomy and self-direction having spent too much time in the lone company of (and constant direction from) adults.

After he finished dumping the contents of both boxes back into the larger one (excruciatingly more disorganized than before) , I grabbed the electric tea kettle that I’d bought him for Christmas, and he grabbed it too, and we stood on opposite sides of that big box, wrestling over where it would go.

“Just let me have this,” I said, and in my eyes, he finally understood.

I wasn’t trying to control him. I was trying to control the awful ache of letting go.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Nuts & Bolts, Teens, Wisdom of Youth

a boy and his vacuum


I’ve either done something right or terribly wrong.

Our very first vacuum was an Electrolux from our Wedding Registry, 1990. It was with us through our move to Vermont, through the birth of two kids, and into the home we built together.

Our oldest was 15 & youngest 10 when we had to replace our old pal. The kids were ecstatic. I was alarmed.

Should kids be this happy about a new vacuum?

Did this mean they were too involved in housekeeping?

Or were their lives unduly deprived of new things?

We did lead a very frugal life. I did expect them to be full participants in caring for the home we shared. Maybe I had gone too far.

Fast forward 7 years…

We’ve been without a vacuum for over a month now. It’s the second time this new Electrolux has stopped working. My husband and our youngest have been in a stalemate over how to move forward.

Repair–for this machine whose life was a quarter of that of its predecessor; or
Replace–and with what? Another Electrolux? Something new?

My husband wanted to play it safe.

Our son, the high school engineer wanted something technologically advanced.

I finally intervened.

“He only has a few months left at home,” I said, “Let him have this.”

“Exactly,” my husband said. “Why should we get the vacuum he wants when he’s leaving.

The Dyson V7 HEPA arrived today. The moment I messaged him, Aidan wanted to leave school.

When he walked through the door at the end of the day, he went right to the boxes (which I had to promise that I would not open without him) and he began unpacking, affectionately examining each piece, and bringing them to me, one by one, to illustrate the technology and the design (are those two different things?), and particularly the interlocking components.

It looks like a Cuisinart to me.

I will never be able to operate it.

But right now I’m headed to my husband’s yoga class and by the time I get home, no doubt I’ll have clean floors again.

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Round Two, Teens

Laundry day

Aidan & another insect. #laundryday 2017, Kelly Salasin

I borrowed my son from his bedroom for his height–to remove a grasshopper from the inside of the screen door off my bedroom.

He hesitates, so I press, “Just lift it up and put it outside!”

Aidan is absurdly afraid of spiders, but grasshoppers?

He is also an engineer.
(Well, a 17-year-old with an engineering mind.)

He taps the screen and the grasshopper jumps onto the glass door.

“Now what!” I say, aggravated with the delay, but he only smiles.

He quickly pulls the screen closed so that the bug is on the outside of the glass door without return access.

“Engineering,” he says, with pride.

Relieved, I return to folding laundry, but distracted, Aidan remains at the door, which has become a specimen jar–eye to eye.

“Come look!” he says.

But I am not interested in grasshoppers–the whole point was to get rid of the grasshopper. But this is his last year at home.

“Watch,” he says, giggling, as the grasshopper pulls down its antenna, like a girl playing with her hair.

Each time Aidan laughs, the grasshopper does it again.

“He must be a comedian,” I say.

“He’s looking right at us,” Aidan says.

“Doesn’t it seem like he’s wearing a metal shield on his head?”

“Exoskelton,” Aidan says.
(He is also a scientist.)

I don’t know how to get from this story to what I want to say.

It’s a leap, like the grasshopper made from the door back into the world.

I’m grateful for this pause with Aidan and the grasshopper for the way it reminds me to stop trying so hard.

Like the Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön says:

There’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, we would be happy.

I want to know this.
In my bones.