By: Tosha Woronov
My phone rang 15 minutes before I was to leave work to get Leo from his after school tennis lesson. It was my friend, the mother of Leo’s two buddies, asking if, by any chance, although it was such short notice, could Leo spend the night?
On the tennis court I whispered the good news into his sweaty little ear and he squealed. I was happy for him. As a girl, I loved that day-of-the-sleepover feeling, when a thousand trillion hours stretched before my friend and me.
He wasn’t the only one surprised to have a brand new Friday night. Suddenly I didn’t have to plan dinner. I didn’t have to play Wii. Or put someone to bed. I could do whatever I wanted.
The house is too still when he’s not here. I sat on the kitchen floor with the cat and dog for longer than seemed normal. I stared at the open pantry cabinet wondering what to eat. I perused the contacts list on my phone, wondering if I should rally a friend -and rally myself -to go out. I wondered if I should just stay home and get drunk.
At about 10pm, thinking I’d just give up and get a truly good night’s sleep for once, I remembered the film I’d been itching to see by Wes Anderson, my hands-down favorite filmmaker. I jumped in the car wearing a long sweater and something too close to pajamas. There was a showing in twenty minutes.
I hadn’t yet been to this particular theatre and was thrilled to find it one of those tiny neighborhood ones, with a single box office window and only two screens. One girl behind the counter scooping out popcorn. Indie showings. Perfect, I thought. This is just what I need. I don’t know why it pleased me when the box office girl came down from her perch behind the front glass and announced to the popcorn girl “I’m going to go start the film now,” but it did. It made me really happy.
As I settled into my seat I started to really, really miss my husband, my movie-going pal, who’s been away on business for several weeks and who has not been in a theater like this, with me, for years. It’s been only multiplexes and stadium seating, online reservations and Pixar for too too long. We used to spend Friday nights at the New Beverly Cinema, catching thoughtfully paired double features like “Reservoir Dogs” and “Taxi Driver”. We would scan the LA Weekly over the phone, he at his work and me at mine, and make our plans for dinner and a movie. Too often after the film we’d end up driving all the way home in one car, his car, and then remember – Shit! We’d left my car on the street – and laugh/groan as he turned us around.
The trailers made me miss him more. I texted him so. It was good to feel like I did 15 years ago, still craving the artsy films of my 20s, but to be now in this place –a mom, his wife.
I was so blissed out I forgot until the opening shot what I was about to see. Because I love Anderson’s films so much, I actually didn’t have high hopes for this one. I tend to do that, to believe that genius is not infinite, and should not be expected to be. That would be selfish. Greedy.
Well, it was better than all of them. My favorite. How is that possible? An unexpected chance to go to the movies by myself, and it ends up being this special?
I got in the car feeling very lucky. For all of it – the kid, the husband, the friends who wanted my son to stay the night in their home, the freedom of a night to myself, the filmmaker who made me feel so human, so connected.
As I rounded the curve of the freeway on-ramp toward home, tall trees gave way to reveal a three-quarter golden-hued moon. I gasped. I actually said out loud “You have got to be kidding me.”
Because it was impossible, this amber moon rising over the kingdom of Los Angeles, telling me yes, it’s true, it’s all for real.
By: Tosha Woronov
I’m failing at everything. A big, fat, fucking F.
My boss is like, “Hello? Are you there? Are you working? Are you ever coming in?”
The dishes are out of control. I wash one spoon at a time so Leo can eat his Cheerios in his 5-minute breakfast allotment before school.
The laundry? Check THIS out:
My dog stares at me all day as I try to work. He stares because he is getting one-eighth of the exercise he needs and deserves.
My cat has stopped meowing for attention and just squints his angry cat eyes at me.
I haven’t posted a blog in exactly THREE MONTHS.
I’m not even reading, which I’m usually pretty good about, burning through a novel every two weeks.
I’m in crisis over my diet/workout plan – too sick with sinus infection to workout, too OVER IT to eat another raw, brightly-colored vegetable.
And my son, my baby -he needs more. Daddy is away on a loooong business trip, and Leo needs someone to fill that playmate gap. (Hello, WHY didn’t we give him a brother 5 years ago again??) Someone to toss the ball, wrestle with on the couch, compete with, sweat with. Yesterday he wrote this adorable Daily Schedule on his wipeboard that included all the things that he and Mommy were going to do that evening, including cuddle time, reading together, playing a board game, an art project, and “indoor basketball”. Problem was, his start time for the schedule was 5pm (on a MONDAY), it involved 7 hours’ of activities, the board game he chose was MONOPOLY, and the activities didn’t include my list of things to do (like making dinner, walking the dog, folding the laundry, or watering the plants that had just suffered through another 100-degree day).
When I tried -gently, hesitantly -to point all this out to him, he got embarrassed (“this is a horrible schedule”), started to cry, then cleared his board in angry, frustrated swipes. I couldn’t calm him or help and so I started to cry too. I shared with him way too much for his soft little 7-year-old heart about how I was trying, and that I just. couldn’t. do it. (Luckily I had the wherewithall and insight to quickly get us into the car to drive to frozen yogurt for dinner, to sit together at a wrought iron table by a burbling fountain, cool off, and regroup.)
I am tired. Tired of not even coming close to filling the big shoes left by my husband. Tired of letting my son down. And the dog, and the cat, and my boss, and my friends, this house, the yard, myself.
I get an F this week; and please, if you are so inclined to comment – I know that it’s par for the course, and all parents go through this, that the dishes can wait, that I am supposed to give myself a break and I shouldn’t try to be Super Mom.
But I promise you, I am not trying to be Super Mom. I just want to be Functioning Mom. Dressed Mom. Breathing Mom. Mom with a Pulse.
And these dishes CANNOT wait.
An Interview with Tosha Woronov, TNF Managing Editor, by The Next Family
TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF?
It’s so important to me. I love that I have this small collection of stories to mark my life as a mother. It goes by so fast as we all know, and anything I can do to memorialize it in some way gives me a shot at holding on to these times. I hope I can come around to start writing more. I’m either too lazy, or too blocked, or too something. Sometimes I have a hard time opening up. My warped thinking is, if I feel safe enough to share it then it must not be that interesting (and therefore not worth sharing). On the flip side, if it’s good – if I want to really rant or really open up about life as a mom/wife/woman, then it’s too risky to share. It’s a catch-22. And I’m impressed that so many of our writers can navigate this issue so much better than I. We have some who can write about normal stuff – dropping off her kid at preschool, or a son’s first zit – and the result is pure poetry.
But I have another special role with TNF that I really treasure: managing editor. I read and edit each and every piece before it goes live on the site. And I love love love editing. When Brandy, our editor-in-chief, first approached me three years ago about being a contributing writer, I was psyched, but said in no way could I work with a site that permitted grammar or spelling errors, from any of its writers. So voila! I was editor. And I’m proud of what we’ve done, and all the unique writers we have from so many interesting backgrounds. Their stories are all special to me.
TNF: How is your family like every other family and how is it different?
We are just like any other family (which is like every other family and also different from every other family). Except I’m quite certain we are wholly different from your typical evangelical Christian Tea-Party family.
TNF: Did your family accept you and your lifestyle? If yes, explain and if not explain what you have done to help them to accept your decisions and your lifestyle.
I hail from some pretty conservative, Republican parents. But I turned out to be a liberal who attended the People’s Republic of Boulder (as my dad refers to the University of Colorado at Boulder) and then married a liberal who works in entertainment. I think they’ve accepted it but will never love it, and we’ve had some problems with it in the past. It can trickle down to bigger things, like our differing views on parenting. But in the end, we are family, and we love each other very much, and as long as we don’t watch Sarah Palin being spoofed on SNL, we have a great time together.
TNF: How do you juggle the work at home with your jobs?
I can’t juggle, so I don’t try. It’s more like dodge ball. Stuff flies at me and I either catch it and execute, or it smacks me hard in the face and I sit on the floor blubbering. I work from home, which is great because I get to work and still be there full-time for our son. My paychecks are teeny but I get to wear pajamas all damn day. And sometimes I can blow off a project and watch Real Housewives. I don’t have to fake sick. (And I love sick days!) What’s rough is that moms – no matter what other outside work they do or don’t have – are always busy with the job of managing a house and family. And so I have a hard time separating the two. I’ll be in the middle of a project, go downstairs for a fresh cup of coffee, and get blindsided by the pile of dirty dishes. Or Real Housewives. But really, I don’t want it any other way. I make it to all of Leo’s sports practices, I host gazillions of play dates, get to be field trip chaperone, be room mom at school and a carnival chairperson, AND I have a job. Also, I get to be at work with our cat sitting on my lap and the dog snoring away on the daybed behind me. A dream!
TNF: What lessons do you feel are the most important to teach children in this day and age? Are there any lessons they, or perhaps we as parents should unlearn?
I feel that our generation of parents just worries too damn much. And look, I’m part of it! I’m talking about myself here. And this emphasis on careful parenting has been a good thing – it was necessary. But (and perhaps this is some remnant of conservative blood in my veins) sometimes I think we should all just calm down and let life happen to our kids – just a little bit. Maybe it’s time to sway the parenting to the other side, back to an older time. Let’s see how our kids handle life rather than rushing in so fast. I don’t think we even allow kids to feel their frustrations or fears – we are so quick to swoop in and fix and bandage and wipe tears and mediate and call the school and intervene. I heard someone once refer to the “helmet-free” parenting of the 70’s – when I grew up -and it stuck with me. I’m not talking about toughening kids up, but actually letting them think and feel and make mistakes. And jesus! – let them find their own ways to entertain themselves that don’t involve an app or a charger!
That was for the parents. For kids, oh man I wish more than anything we could just teach them that it’s OK. It’s OK to love, and it’s OK to fall down, and it’s OK to wear that color to school, and it’s OK that you still love stuffed animals, and it’s OK that she has two moms, and it’s OK if he likes boys, and it’s OK if they were adopted. It’s OK that you’re scared and it’s OK that you’re pissed off and it’s OK that you’re sad and don’t know what to do.
And it’s OK if your mom wears pajamas when she picks you up from school.
TNF: Any words of wisdom to pass on to our readers?
I’m the last person who should pass on any wisdom, but let’s see…
Let your kids cry it all out, while telling them it’s OK to cry it out. I stopped shush-ing Leo (I don’t even hand him a tissue anymore) because I believe that fully experiencing anything – even sadness – can bring joy. I think it’s helped him.
Please, people, know this: You REALLY CAN use the word “me” in a sentence! “I” only sounds better when it’s the appropriate usage. And it’s almost never appropriate to use “myself”.
Forgive your mother, as you’d want to be forgiven.
Read read read! And let your kids see you read! And get books from the library, or a bookstore, even Amazon – not ONLY loaded on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.
Can we stop referring to everything as a “journey”? You’re having a baby; you’re getting married; you’ve written a novel. No journey! It’s only a journey if you’re wearing a khaki vest and a safari hat. And even then it’s only an expedition.
Don’t be the first to break a hug.
TNF: Anything you want our readers to know about you or your family?
We have 1,000 nicknames for our dog and cat. The cat: Dr. Kits (“paging Dr. Kits!”), Spotted Belly Boy, Apple Face, Long Cat Number 205. The dog: Fluffito, Cha-Chi-Cho-Cho, or Chimini-Chee-Cha, Gruffalo. Or Mr. Proud.
I stay up too late. Crazy late. Like 4am. My circadian rhythm is all screwed up. I’m beyond ashamed to admit it but now that it’s out there I feel better.
By: Tosha Woronov
Almost two years ago I posted a blog about the nutty stuff my kid has said. We have a jar in the playroom stuffed with scraps of paper, each depicting a Leo quote and the date he said it. Partly because I don’t know what to write about, and partly because it’s a new year and I’m feeling nostalgic, I decided to revisit the jar, now that two years have passed…
Age 5 [referring to a commercial where a guy gets his chest waxed]: Remember that part where the man has his fur ripped off his nibbles?
Age 5: Mom, who will be in the World Serious tonight?
Age 5.5 [sees his first Big Mac; Daddy asks him if he knows what it's called]: It’s a double burger triple bun cheeseburger.
Age 5.5 [was shooting hoops in backyard by himself]: Mom! I had an accident! (Why?) Well, I had to go pee, but I had to make the foul shot, and I made it, and Syracuse – I’m Syracuse, and we beat Providence, and, and - (That’s fine, but you still have to stop if you need to pee. Call a timeout or something.) I had no timeouts left!
Age 5.5: Daddy, you are the worst kisser! Your kisses are tiny and rude!
Age 5.5: When I grow up I’m going to be a sports teacher – baseball, basketball, football, all sports. I’ll have a sports league for grownups. I’ll teach you. Even if you’re old, I’ll teach you. Ooh-will you be old?
Age 5.5 [completely out of the blue]: Did you guys know that cold bacon, when you first put it in your mouth, is disgusting, but after you swallow it, it’s delicious?
Age 5.5 [kissing the dog on the lips]: You taste like tortillas. Like tortillas from Sharky’s.
Age 5.5 [after a long drive back from a baseball game]: My head hurts! I’ve been driving all day!
Age 5.75 [after the first day of kindergarten]: Kindergarten is going to be so hard! (How so?) All this homework I keep hearing about!
Age 5.75: Do you know what I want? Directv, HDTV, and Promotions on Demand.
Age 5.75 [learning to draw stars in kindergarten]: Mom, please help me make a normal star – a California star, not a Jewish star.
Age almost-6 [joking about where he'd go to college; Mommy wants him to stay in CA; Daddy said he'll go where he went, Syracuse]: I’m not going to Syracuse! I can’t fly on a plane everyday!
Age almost-6 [Red Sox third baseman retires; is given the third base from Fenway Park to keep]: Oh good. Now he can practice with it at home!
Age 6 [to his friend as he leaves a birthday party; eyeing all the unopened presents]: I’m leaving now. Good luck with those gifts.
Age 6 [a holiday party at home; introducing his favorite cousin to his best school friend]: Tell him your name. Now you tell him your name. And you both know me. Ok, good. Let’s go play.
Age 6 [in kindergarten, making a sculpture out of cardboard tubes; another parent asks "what are you making?"]: Just something from the 80s.
Age 6 [sees my mineral makeup-concealer]: Oh, I know that stuff. I saw it on TV. It’s for your pitbulls. (What are “pitbulls”?) Those polka-dots on your face.
Age 6.75 [his friend has a tick on his shoulder; other mom and I freaking out, trying to get it off]: Ooh, is that a piece of chocolate? Can I have it?
Age almost-7: Remember when I caught that pop fly in my game? You know, the second pop fly of my career?
Age almost-7: If some people have a really healthy breakfast, like 10% salt and only 20% sugar, then they can have ice cream before lunch.
Age almost-7 [was kissing him and asked if he would still love his mama even when he was a teenager]: I don’t want to be a teenager![starts crying hard] Teenagers are bad! They are! They get in trouble! They’re going to say “come with me” and then I will be in trouble too!
Age 7 [just distraught that it's bedtime]: What do you guys do when I go to bed? Do you do art and play the Wii?! [Yes, we bust out the glitter glue as soon as you go to sleep.]
Age 7: Daddy, next Christmas, I want a Capital One card, so I can earn 50% more cash with each purchase.
Age 7 [New Year's Eve 2011; at an arcade; playing the "claw" game; he's good at it --has won over 30 stuffed animals; wins not one, but TWO this time; pulls out the second one and exclaims]:
What a YEAR!
Yes Leo, it was. And here’s to the new one…
Now parents, use the comments section to share the wacky things your kid has said!
By: Tosha Woronov
Once upon a time about five years ago two friends met for dinner. They sat over plates of vegan tacos and lentil pate, the air between thick with the worries consuming one of them. Her name is Brandy, and she had been trying for over a year to get pregnant with her wife, Susan.
The other friend, Tosha, was at a loss for words. She knew not to mention adoption; others had, apparently, and although they meant well, it stung too much. Brandy wanted to carry a baby inside of her, and was in anguish that it hadn’t happened, wasn’t happening, might not happen. Tosha had a two-year-old son of her own, and understood Brandy’s need for this.
Brandy cried, and then so did Tosha, over the latest in her and her wife’s quest to be parents: Susan’s tentative suggestion that perhaps she try to get pregnant. Now the word was failure. “She thinks I’ve failed,” Brandy cried. “My body has failed and now she wants to use hers.” (Tosha wanted to say that maybe she could see some beauty in this, that for all their hurdles –two lesbians unable (unfairly) to make a baby without medical assistance of some sort- perhaps the silver lining was that there were two women who could try. Heterosexual couples didn’t have that option. But the friend didn’t want to hear about silver linings. She wanted to cry.)
That was five years ago.
Susan and Brandy gave it one more shot. I think that’s what they said. “We’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, then Susan will try.” But Brandy’s body didn’t fail them; in fact it succeeded beautifully. (No new mother, Tosha was convinced, had ever come out of pregnancy, labor, breast feeding, sleeplessness, and new-parent-chaos as seamlessly as Brandy did: with grace and passion and love love love. And back into her skinny jeans within moments.)
Yes it was beautful. She was beautiful. Sophia. She of the feathery hair and helium-balloon voice. Their love incarnate.
But wait there’s more.
Brandy and Susan went for it again. Even with fears –of college educations and more square footage and a mini-van –thick around them, they went for it again. They didn’t hold back. They knew success in this area was no guarantee.
What the heck, they said.
And as Tosha writes this, baby Penn AND baby Bella are in the hospital with their mommies and big sister. They are healthy and beautiful. Brandy is exhausted, and beautiful.
Once they were two, and then they were three, and now they are five. Five! Five hearts joined as a family, embraced by dozens of people to love and support them.
A modern family.
But see, there’s nothing modern about their love. Not at all. It’s as old as time.
By: Tosha Woronov
So it’s time to just come right out and admit that I’ve been depressed. Admit to you, I mean. The people in and out of my daily life know this well already, have been forced to know it time and time again. But I haven’t wanted to write about it.
I keep thinking it’s going to go away, leaving me to myself, leaving me to my writing, my energy. I thought it would leave as summer did, that season I hate. With fall, my favorite time, I was sure the good feelings would breeze back in with the crisp cool air, pop up like bright orange gourds.
I tried reading through my depression all summer. I read a lot. Northwest Corner. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. The Sisters Brothers. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore. Pretty. The Year We Left Home. Tinkers. A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Submission. All good, all worth reading. I was –almost- re-inspired. But the keyboard just stared back at me, my own ideas simply not worth typing out. It was all just too…blah.
It’s not like good things haven’t been happening. Being a mom of a great kid means – thank god – witnessing charm and beauty and growth everyday. Well, you know. But that’s why I couldn’t write about it; I couldn’t see how another reader could possibly care about the feats or sayings of my little one when she had little ones of her own by which to be astounded.
So I read some more, looking for common ground. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Whoops. Maybe too much. I don’t think I need shock treatments, and I sure as hell don’t want to stick my head in the oven. I just feel like not getting out of bed. Or crawling back into bed. Or turning off the living room lights and hiding in my corner on the couch, under a blanket.
It made sense all summer, with my reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not rain or cloudy weather that bring me down, but rather 105-degree heat, a sky that hums electric, brittle grass, dogs tired from nothing more than panting. I hate it.
But now it’s October, time for pumpkin lattes (which I don’t drink, just love seeing on the menu) and petting zoos. Costumes and a light sweater. Time to make chili and spiced breads, butternut squash soup, add some caramel. Now is the time for the beach, wrapped in a down vest, as the sun sets and the pelicans dive.
So why am I still so sad? I know I need to return to the medication that helped me immensely once not too long ago. That’s becoming clear. But there’s an admittance of defeat there that takes a stronger, healthier person to arrive at – a less depressed person. Ah, there’s the rub. Everything I need to get better I can’t seem to do because I can’t get better. The chicken or the egg? My vicious cycle. It would help to write, but (as I already explained) I can’t do that. It would help to visit with my witty and loving friends, but I keep canceling (for the couch, my bed). It would help to exercise, but…yeah right.
I have tried to slog through this, I really have. I cannot allow my label to be “Depressed Person”. I joined a meditation group, and remind myself its teachings: “anything fully experienced brings joy” and “suffering is not in the fact but in the perception of that fact”. I don’t know if I so much believe these things as need to believe them. It would be great if they were true.
And I’ve been really, really good at slowing down and experiencing the moment, which all moms are told to do lest her child grows up too fast. And let me tell you – ha! ha! – it’s easy to do when you have the blues. Oh yeah, I could sit there all day long and play Monopoly with my son, or doodle with him – ignoring the dishes, the groceries, the evil stack of bills. I slowed it all down all right.
I’m angry that I quit my meds, that tiny pill that made such a big, yet subtle difference. I can’t forgive myself for giving up that safe place in the first place, for losing all these months to the malaise in my head.
But something’s got to give.
Yesterday evening I shopped for the ingredients for a thick and hearty homemade soup. Last night I took my meds. This morning I made myself write, and admit to you, that I’m having a hard time. Now I’ll go downstairs (walk past that couch) and heave out the crock pot. This afternoon, I’ll sit on a blanket on this fine October day and watch my son play football, and my husband coach it. And I have faith that when we return home, the smells of this season of all good things will bring me back to where I’m supposed to be.
By: Tosha Woronov
I hate summer. I hate people who love summer, who go on and on about how much they love it. People who don’t sweat. Who invite you over for a swim. Or to the beach. Every. Damn. Day. I like autumn and winter people. People who suggest coffee and a movie, or a trip to Barnes and Noble. People who get that any invitation requiring a bathing suit is offensive, presumptuous, annoying.
I often won’t bother to open photographs that people email to me. But I lie that I did. I read the jpeg description – “kids at play in Cape Cod” and I email back: “Oh my god the kids are so frickin’ CUTE! Looks like you guys had a blast!” Sometimes I get a crisis of conscience and decide to open them later. But after 15 seconds, if that attachment doesn’t open, forget it. Delete. (I will –and did –stop everything to pore over emailed photos taken at the high-school reunion that I didn’t attend.)
I do expect people to open, view, and comment specifically and with great fanfare on the pictures that I email to them. I’ll check email several times a day to see if they’ve responded. I know, I know. Messed up.
I like when Leo gets sick. I like knowing we are supposed to stay in bed late, watch TV. I like that he probably won’t want dinner, just a popsicle, or some fruit. I like that we have to cancel or decline all play dates until he’s better. I like dosing him with kids’ Motrin.
If one more person tells me they are on their way to, or just returning from, Hawaii, I’m going to throw up.
I write people off the second I see that they’ve used the wrong form of “its”. Or say “I could care less” (makes no sense -it’s couldn’t). The almost always inappropriate and unnecessary use of the word “myself”. The baffling refusal to use the word “me” (“That was so funny to Tom and I” – huh??). And I know I need to get over my issues with LOL, that it has taken over the world, but I can’t. I just…can’t.
I hate the mom who gabs nonstop during her kid’s basketball/baseball/football games, missing passes caught, plays made, points scored. Don’t you know your kid looks for you in the stands after doing something remarkable? You suck.
I am DONE with mothers who refuse to follow the basic rules of society: stand in line, don’t cut (especially your friend with her 5 kids sneaking in at the last minute to “join you”), make your kids sit still, shut the f-up (who cares about the remodel of your kitchen?), and let this poor magician (or juggler, or wildlife expert, or puppeteer) perform his free (!!) act in this public library for your rude ass.
I hate when people don’t email or text me back, but rather, decide to call.
My text: “What time are we meeting tomorrow?”
The response: phone rings.
This, too, has taken over the world and I can’t get over it: invitations to gatherings and parties that appear only on Facebook. Seriously? No one’s even using Evite anymore?
I hate adults who freak out when my dog gallops toward them at the park. I know; it’s the law. He’s supposed to be on a leash. But he’s a stuffed animal. A sweet, waggy-tailed, fluffy stuffed animal. I kinda wish he did bite.
Oh my god, the moms in Whole Foods and other high-end natural food markets! I’m in there, too. I’m buying kale, and wheat grass, and beets. I’m turning my kid on to meatless protein crumbles. But I don’t really belong there. These women in organic cotton sundresses –with their translucent skin, waif-ish arms, and tribal tattoos– they own the place. Like they started the whole…thing. How long have they been eating this shit anyway? And I hate their kids, begging for a spirulina smoothie.
Is no one going to at least admit that processed foods taste good? Really. Kraft macaroni and cheese grosses you out? Really.
I hate people who say they never watch TV. Whatever.
Or people who say they just love! to get up early.
I could go on and on.
But OMFG I’m hating this, too.
By: Tosha Woronov
I had been a new mom for about six months when my first Mother’s Day came around. It was the happiest of days. Peter booked me a massage at Burke Williams, which was, back then, just up the block. (We moved, Burke Williams didn’t.) I remember the walk home, after hours of alone time and extravagant pampering. Freshly scrubbed and relaxed, I was made new again. Flecks of granite sparkled in the sidewalk. Birds sounded sweeter, the sky was clear, and it all made sense to me, finally. I was a mom, and I was lucky. I couldn’t wait to get home.
I must have well expressed my gratitude that day, because every year since, my husband’s mission is to make Mother’s Day extra special. It’s not even a day in our house, but rather a weekend. “Mom’s Weekend”. Date night on Friday, just Peter and me. Family Day on Saturday, which usually means a Dodger game. And, because Sunday, the actual day, is for Mom to be alone and do whatever she wants, I sleep in late, wake up to a hazelnut latte thrust in my face, open heartfelt and homemade gifts and cards (even from the dog), workout, and visit a spa. And, because “whatever Mom wants” actually does include being with my family, the perfect day – er, weekend – is capped off with a fun dinner together. And every year I’m left as I crawl into bed with that same realization from my first Mother’s Day: I am so lucky.
This year would be different. My husband is out of town on a seven-week business trip, and the knowledge that Leo won’t get to see his dad (nor his dad, Leo) for a very long time is far too weighty and painful for me to even think of myself on Mother’s Day. There would be no sleeping in, no date night, no dinners, no pampering, no alone time.
We would improvise.
People say that children model the behavior exhibited by their parents. Following in the footsteps of his thoughtful and romantic dad, six-year-old Leo stealthily purchased for (and hid from) me a heart-shaped cubic zirconia pendant from the 50% off section of the Macy’s jewelry department. (He had been worried the week prior about what to get for me –and how to get it with his dad away –and brought it up while at Macy’s shopping for sunglasses. I directed him to the sales sections, giving explicit instructions to not go over a certain amount. “Do I have to use my own money?” he asked. “No sweetie. Daddy will pay for it.” I recruited a kind and elderly sales woman to help him while handing her my credit card. She was tickled by his determination that I dare not see what he had chosen. She commended him for being such a “fine young man” and wrapped the tiny white box, which he promptly hid under his bed when we got home, announcing loudly, “It’s hiding under my bed, ok Mom?!”)
Instead of our usual Mom’s Weekend dinner out, we had a picnic on the living room floor. While I carved his favorite roast chicken, he set the “table”: a sports logo-covered blanket laid over the rug, paper plates, napkins, spoons (we didn’t need spoons), and a flower just-plucked from our back patio, resting on my place mat. (Man, he’s good.)
On Sunday, there would be no sleeping in. Hmph. Leo’s baseball team had a game scheduled for Mother’s Day. At 8:30 in the morning. But you have to be there a half-hour early. That means leaving the house at 7:30, getting Leo up at 6:30 (theoretically), and, because the dog and cat need attention too, getting myself up at 6:00. 6:00! On Mother’s Day. Geez.
But there’s more. Leo’s Little League has this insane 50-year tradition that the moms coach their kid’s game on Mother’s Day. I was nervous about it for days, hoping I wouldn’t have to pitch –one knee on the ground (they are little kids, after all), trying to not bean a kid in the head, making sure the overhand toss is good enough to yield a hard and mighty hit, avoiding being smacked in the face myself. I joked about it too much with the other moms in the games leading up to it. “Ha, ha, you’re pitching all four innings, right??”
When we arrived at the field the mood was jovial…and weird. The bleachers were filled only with dads and dad-coaches, each giggling hilariously at nothing –just the sight of females in the dugout, poring over batting orders and field assignments. There was heckling. “Hey Greg! Do I ever hold a coffee cup while I’m coaching?” “Is that her purse on her shoulder??” I loved it. I got in the mood.
But the actual game. What a mess. I couldn’t stop thinking, Really? Are we really this bad at this? Because we have VAGINAS these kids suddenly suck at baseball? Even our best, focused kids couldn’t make a play. Balls were dropped. Kids forgot to run. Moms screamed. “Aidan!! Run back to 1st! You have to run back to 1st!! TOUCH THE BAG!!” No one hit a thing. The pitching was, as expected, pretty horrible.
And then there was the crying. Crying! In baseball! One little boy was so distraught at being tagged out that his mom had to carry his helmet-topped, sobbing body off the field. Another, just pissed that he couldn’t get a hit off that crappy pitching, would do nothing but cry. For two innings he refused to leave the dugout. One mom had to don a catcher’s helmet because there were no longer enough kids to field. They were dropping like flies. When Leo started to tear up over the general shittiness of the game, I got right in his face, imploring him, “Please baby, don’t start too. We NEED you.”
And all the while the dads just rolled in the stands, hooting and guffawing, coughing and sputtering, trying to catch a breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were wasted.
And so, on my Mother’s Day, I thought a lot about fathers. I developed a new level of respect. I found myself amazed that, in 15-plus games with the dads coaching, the boys hadn’t cried. They wouldn’t. Even at their tender young ages, they simply do not cry when the dads are out there with them. It’s some kind of cool guy thing. Men, even modern, loving, sensitive men, have this “proper place and time” sense about sports that is completely opposite from the sentiment of “go ahead baby, let it all out” unconsciously offered up by the moms –not to mention knowledge, confidence, energy, and skill about the game that we just didn’t have. I hate to admit it, but we didn’t have it.
That night, I lay in bed next to Leo, recounting the day as we always do, and he started to cry that he missed his dada. It was the proper place and time to do so, and he cried hard. And I was so damn happy to be a mommy, a mommy who could be there to hold her little boy while he let it all out. And although this Mother’s Day was so different than the rest, I was again reminded of how lucky I am.
By: Tosha Woronov
I’m a worrier. A freak. A stress-case.
And I haven’t done a good job at hiding that from my little boy.
His innocence and joy mean everything to me and yet…I guess not enough to keep my worries to myself.
I mentioned this in my last blog, that my son had recently used the all too grown-up word, “burden”. I shudder.
This past Sunday found Pete, Leo, and me at Target, hiding out from the torrential rain that had been falling all morning.
I got a text from our neighbor: “Is ur power out too? Just got off phone w/ electric co. Said it might not be back on til 2morrow afternoon.”
I immediately started thinking of the problems that would arise from having no power for 24-plus hours.
Will the chicken in the fridge spoil?
Will all the food in the fridge spoil?
How will I get my edits done?
No “Californication” tonight?
Uh-oh – Pete won’t be able to watch Syracuse in Round Two of the NCAA tournament.
When we got home, we assessed. My worrying continued, out loud.
Our flashlights are lame. Why didn’t we buy batteries at Target? Why didn’t we get electric candles? We could use the stove, or the grill, to cook dinner. We could go out to dinner. Should we just go to a hotel? No, we can’t afford that, and what about the dog? Will I have to throw all this food out? God, I would be horrible in a real emergency, huh? When is it going to stop raining? Is our heat electric? Or gas? Yikes, it will be cold tonight. Will there be school tomorrow? The power is out there, too. Maybe the school has a generator. If he doesn’t have school, which one of us will cancel which prior commitments to stay home with him? Can the goldfish survive for a whole day without his air filter? What is that damn beeping? Oh it’s the security alarm; it detects a power failure. Just unplug the main line. That’s stupid. Unplugging it makes no sense. Should we go somewhere to watch the game? Will DirectTV still record “Californication”?
I want to be clear that I wasn’t hysterical. I was, in fact, weirdly into (if not totally moronic about) determining what would work and what wouldn’t, which aspects of our daily lives required electricity and which didn’t. And I was psyched that now (through no laziness on my part!) it would be impossible to clean the bathrooms, wash the dishes, pay the bills, do some writing. A free day. In fact my biggest panic was how to keep my iPhone (which was dangerously down to 48% power) charged. I wondered how long I’d have to sit in the car, the running car, to charge it.
So, I wasn’t really freaking out.
But I freaked out Leo.
And damnit, this is when I hate myself. This is when I hate that I am this kind of person. This kind of mom. When I wish wish wish that I had been born a different way, or under different circumstances – the ways and circumstances that create the kind of girl I have never been and will never be: calm. cool. collected. chill. The zen mamas who just ooze peace and relaxation and therefore raise kids who don’t stress the small stuff. This is when I wonder if I shouldn’t have become a mother. This is when it hurts.
More than anything, I want Leo to be NOT like me. And it breaks my heart that he is like me. I mean, like this part of me.
I felt so ashamed when he started to cry, when he started to worry that the power was out.
And since I’m being honest here I need to stress that he was not scared. It was not dark yet. He was worried. He said so.
I did my best then to remember that I am a frickin’ mommy! of a smart and observant little boy! and that I needed to shut up! and stop worrying him. I got down on my knees and apologized, and told him that the things mommy was thinking about are things he did not need to think about. I asked him to please let us worry about silly grown-up things like the refrigerator, and to please, please know that mommy and daddy would keep him safe.
And I promised him that it would be an adventure.
We left soon after, to find a restaurant with tvs that might be airing some college basketball. We had fun.
And when we got home, it was dark. Very dark. And still pouring rain. And Leo and I, armed with a flashlight, brushed our teeth in the cave-like bathroom, got in our jammies. We played UNO, the three of us, on our bed. The dog and cat were there, too. We were together. And aside from Leo asking (three times!), “should we watch TV?” and then laughing each time I reminded him “we can’t” –and aside from a moment of slight panic when Leo and I, weird sleepers that we are, realized we would have to fall asleep (so early! 8pm!) without the white noise from our sound machines — I never worried or thought about it again.
And when I awoke a couple hours later to the sounds of the house coming back to life, I was a little sad that it was over.
Now all I can do is remember the day the lights went out and try to do better.
[Photo Credit: Flickr Image: Davidjwbailey]
By: Tosha Woronov
My dog has diarrhea. I don’t know what’s wrong with him but I do know I can’t handle it anymore. He’s behind me in the office right now, farting away as I type. He’s throwing up too, and I’m having trouble finding my compassionate side. I know he can’t help it, but coming home after a long morning of helping out at my son’s school (Kindergartners! What kind of prescription medication must his teacher take in order to put up with 20 psychos all day?) –to a house already dirty with dishes and piles of laundry and scattered crayons and whatever the cat’s gotten into –to find piles of vomit and poop on various rugs throughout the house (on the rugs -always the rugs -never the hardwood floors), I could only think what the FUCK have you been eating?! It’s not the cat food anymore. His incessant eating of that caused a bout of diarrhea several weeks ago –an episode that went on for five days and got so bad that by Day Five I sobbed and sobbed while cleaning it. Now I stand like a sentinel as the cat mows down his meal, guarding before Charlie can sneak just one more taste. So it’s not cat food. Look closer. Oh it’s grass! Of course it’s grass, fucking stoner dog. Stop eating the grass! Oh look at this pile –is that…rabbit poop?! Are you seriously eating rabbit poop from the backyard?? So I lost it again yesterday when Leo and I returned home. Not right away, but once I saw that the cat had walked in it, had walked all over the couch –tiny kitten vomit/crap footprints on our couch –I lost it. I didn’t sob. I yelled. Oh my GOD!!!! I cannot DEAL with this! I’m gonna LOSE it! I can’t TAKE this anymore! What is WRONG with this dog?? When is your DAD…GOING…TO…GET…HOME!!?!? And then I noticed Leo. Poor Leo. Beautiful child of a crazy woman. He was crying, silently crying.
I found my compassionate side.
Baby, it’s ok. Mommy is just really really overwhelmed right now. I’m not mad at Charlie and I’m DEFINITELY not mad at you. I shouldn’t let you see me so upset. It’s ok baby. Shh, shh, it’s ok. I’m sorry, I’m sorry…
And I found my compassion for Charlie, too. How dare I judge him for eating shit that makes him sick? I once had the stomach flu all day on a Saturday but came downstairs 10 hours later –my stomach still trembling — saw the pizza that Pete had ordered for himself (while his sick wife lolled around on her deathbed), and ate a slice. Of pepperoni pizza. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on Pete’s face. So I can’t judge Charlie. Maybe rabbit poop is delicious. But still.
I stayed up last night petting his head, checking his nose for signs of coolness (maybe an old wives’ tale, but I always feel better when his nose is cold), wondering if we should go to the vet. I know the only real issue right now is dehydration (we’ve been through this before) so I tried like hell to get him to drink water, or lick an ice cube, which worked when he was a puppy. Please Charlie, just drink something. Nope. But at the crack of dawn today I let him out to pee or throw up or whatever he had to do and he went directly to the moss-covered, half-filled, slime-infested, unplugged water fountain…and drank from that. Good choice Charlie.
I will say this: I am not at all proud of freaking out so badly that I made my son cry. I’m ashamed actually. (You know you’re really ashamed when you decide to confess it in a blog.) But Leo has been incredibly helpful ever since. Jumping out of bed the second I woke him for school today, finding clothes to wear without protest, brushing his teeth with no prompting, and even asking last night before bed…(ok this is the shameful part)…”Mommy is there anything I can do to help your burden?” Burden. He said burden. (Oh god I am the worst.) He’s afraid of upsetting his crazy biatch of a mother so he’s now Mr. Cooperative. But is that so bad…? It’s a positive outcome, right? Just the other day he removed his socks while watching TV, tossed them up, and cared not at all that one landed on the flat screen. But today he’s thoughtful. Today he wants his mother unburdened, and how many 6-year-olds feel that way? The dog loses his shit, I lose mine, and the kid behaves. Nice!
I know; scaring your child to the point of total compliancy is probably not recommended in modern alterna-parenting books, huh?
Ok, I have to be finished with this now. The smell’s unbearable…
[Photo Credit: Flickr Member Leah Lockhart Rogers]