And Just Like That … They Grew Up


I love having friends that get me. Like My Pregnant Friend or Mistress of the Timpano or her preferred moniker, Awesome Sauce, which is by far the most appropriate.

She is completely awesome.

TimpanoAttack

She’s preggers with her first baby and has come to me for advice.

Crazy, right? So I brought up the very important subject of naming children.

Me: Loony is already starting a pile for your baby girl. I assume you will be naming her something very feminine like Fallopia, Secretia, or Latrina. Labia is also quite lovely.

She didn’t miss a beat.

Awesome Sauce: Although I love your name suggestions, I am leaning more towards Sesquipedalian, Labyrinthine or maybe Murmurous. They are, you know, some of the most beautiful words in the English language – and we want her to be super sophisticated.  I wanted to name her Vagina, and call her Vag for short, but Ben says that she might get called something like Whisker Biscuit or Twatlantic Ocean on the playground, so that would be mean.

Twatlantic Ocean? Whisker Biscuit? VAG! Apparently the hunter has become the hunted.

Hopefully she will take my advice on cloth diapers and baby wearing. Loony is a black belt in Mobywrapping.

grouch

Seeing her at the starting gates of getting in a family way only brings my current stage of parenting into sharp relief.

Just the other day we were going through our usual morning machinations. I was in my robe, Loony had left to volunteer at the church, and the kids were miraculously ready to leave.

I told them they could wait a minute for me to throw on a coat and boots or they could just walk by themselves.

And just like that, they were gone.

First time walking to school alone

It was PJ Day, hence the stuffed animal and pajama bottoms.

It happened so fast that I could hardly process it. We hadn’t planned for this moment aside from daily reminders about safety, streets and strangers.

I hadn’t put this day on the calendar.

Like I said, it just … happened.

First time walking to school alone

“See you after school!”

You might get on me for letting my kids walk to school alone but my personal experience tells me that kids are capable of so much more than we give them credit for, and that we as a society strive to infantilize our children as long as possible.

Long past when it is good or appropriate.

And hey, they are my kids. I know them well enough to predict what they can and cannot do.

Cute. Fun. Trouble.

Imagine San Francisco in the 80′s. I took a cable car and a city bus to get from Chinatown to my school near Union street by 7:45 in the morning. It’s my version of walking to a mile to school in the snow with no shoes and uphill both ways.

My mom did it with me once and then I was on my own.

We landed here when we moved from SLC. Click on the link, it kind of broke my heart that that is where she needed to go. http://www.gummoon.org

We landed here at the Gum Moon Women’s Residence when we got off the bus from SLC. My heart breaks to think that this is the only place my mom had to go. She had to be so strong and she needed me to be strong, too.

I was in the second grade and had just moved from Salt Lake City where my school was just across the street.

I was scared the first time but I’m grateful for the confidence that moment in my life gave me.

So no, I don’t think walking three blocks to school with your brother in little ol’ Boulder is all that dangerous; certainly no more dangerous than a cross-city public transportation with a half-mile of major street crossings in a big city.

I crossed this street every day.

I crossed this street every day.

That time in my life was an adventure. I got very good at using public transportation and I explored the whole city without my mother.

I visited the Exploratorium, The Palace of Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (we were members), the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Street, not to mention countless streets, thrift shops, neighborhood libraries and parks.

I still remember scraping my change together to buy the most wonderful pierogis at a Polish corner store that must have been twenty blocks away. I devoured them on the walk home. Oh they were so good!

I toured all the fancy department stores so I could ride the elevators and check out who had the best bathrooms (Nieman’s). I spent a lot of time entertaining myself and got very creative and resourceful. I was a natural city kid.

All this happened between second and fifth grade and I was usually by myself.

I am glad my mother trusted me enough to let me grow and build confidence, although as a single mom she didn’t have much choice.

I had a bus pass and the city was mine.

I had a bus pass and the city was mine.

Back to my boys. Later that day I checked in with the boys about how it felt. I was met with a monosyllabic Good in response.

I read Free Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy when the boys were young and it changed how I looked at parenting.

I want to raise confident and capable kids. I consult my personal experience and do a reality check when discerning what is genuinely risky or just fear mongering. I always ask myself if I think they can do something by themselves. Should they be able to do it by themselves?

I (or rather Loony) still walks them to school most of the time, but they did it. Another baby step has been taken away from the nest.

It doesn't illustrate my point but I couldn't stomach the cutesy Baby Steps graphics.

It doesn’t illustrate my point but I couldn’t stomach the cutesy Baby Steps graphics.

It’s such a shame that those early years of parenting are so intense. You want to enjoy every moment but many of those moments are so exhausting and hard that you are more focused on surviving them versus loving every minute.

My advice? Take lots of pictures.

The boys used to bathe in tubs on the porch

The boys used to bathe in tubs on the porch

Hiking at Caribou Ranch

Hiking at Caribou Ranch

My most favorite quote about those childbearing years comes from The Ghost of Hannah Mendes by Naomi Ragen.

rodin_mother_and_child_460_1

Now I feel like the empty nester who warned the pregnant me to be careful not to blink, because it will be over before I know it.

And because of that I have been thinking long and hard about blogging. I love it. I can’t imagine shutting the door on my writing and creative outlet.

Just writing this post has been a rich exercise in remembrance as I look for just the right photo in long-forgotten albums and discovered a picture on-line of the boarding house in SF that my mom and I stayed in.

My past has become real and alive again, but now with the benefit of time and perspective. It’s invaluable.

But I need to take care.

I am obsessed with writing. I think about it all the time and I’ll shamefully admit that I often push my boys away so I can write or edit or search for just the right illustrations.

always-on-the-computer_o_763366

I don’t want my kids to remember me as always busy on the computer, for a blog that will likely confuse and embarrass them.

I don’t want them to think that I traded in their childhoods for this.

I don't like it when this is me.

I don’t like it when this is me.

In the midst of this existential writing crisis, I wrote a feverish email to my favorite former blogger at two in the morning.

I say former because she gave it up. She regaled me with horror stories of what could happen if I was ever “discovered” (i.e. Freshly Pressed on WordPress) and she wasn’t talking about not knowing what to do with all the endorsement money. HA!

She warned me that blogging fame (such that it is) attracts creeps and vampire-like stalkers; the work intensifies and you probably won’t make any money. She told me that if my heart wasn’t in it, I should walk away.

But here’s the thing, my heart is still in it. Very much so. But I need to find a way to give writing a more appropriate place in my life so my boys won’t remember me as the person always putting them off so I could check my computer.

I don’t think I could live with myself if they did.

MjAxMi05MGNhN2FkYTk0ZTk0MTE2

And as that fateful morning illustrated, they are already on that road to independence and it will only be a matter of time until being with them isn’t entirely my choice anymore. They will stop wanting to be around me.

I’m not trying to elicit sympathy or compliments or entreaties to keep writing. This, for once, isn’t about my ego needing stroking.

1450130_756489564365909_2111289823_n

I will keep writing whether anyone wants me to. It’s a part of me.

I don’t write for you (well maybe I do, a little) I write for me. It helps me understand my past and plot my future.

And I desperately want to be the mom I want my kids to have.

And I need to keep writing in order to stay sane and feel like the things that happen in my life happen for a reason.

Here’s what I want to do:

  • I will not write while the kids are at home and awake
  • I can write when they are at school and when they are in bed
  • I will not write when they are “otherwise occupied” meaning I can’t put on a DVD and sneak off to my computer
  • No Facebook, no blogging, no responding to comments

You might not be able to tell the difference but hopefully I will. Hopefully my kids will, to0.

29 thoughts on “And Just Like That … They Grew Up

  1. I couldn’t agree with this more. I don’t write for fame (Because let’s be honest, I am not getting famous from my blog) but for me. A timeline to refer to when I feel I haven’t grown or accomplished anything. A place to see my growth and maybe laugh a little along the way.

    I do love reading and interacting with other writers, but that is just a bonus and hopefully will help with my actual writing, which is currently separate from my blog.

    • I think the days of making a living from blogging are over. There were less Heather Armstrongs, Bloggess, and Ally Brosh’s out there when they got started. It was a hard market, but not inundated like it is now with talent.

      You can blog professionally if you are willing to write about what someone tells you to, but that’s not really my thing.

      My friend who used to blog got Freshly Pressed, garnered hundreds of followers as a result and was essentially extorted and cyberbullied off the internet. That doesn’t sound like my idea of success. I’d rather have fewer followers and get to write what I want and feel safe.

      • That sounds like a nightmare. I can sit here all day long and say it wouldn’t effect me if that happened. But it totally would. I would FREAK out. I have no desire to have that kind of exposure. What a shame something that probably started out as being exciting went so wrong.

        I like it right here where I am, in my cozy corner of the internet. Just me and a few folks chatting, writing, living.

        • I agree. There is such a push to get more followers, network, grow your blog, etc. But why? Monetizing is a difficult prospect. I can’t write a blog about rejecting consumerism and then push products. I wonder how much of it is about WP expanding its market share by leveraging our creativity. And then what happens?

          My friend’s story was horrific and her work was so brilliant. I miss her blog and it makes me mad that she had to wipe it off he face of the earth. I can’t even read past posts anymore. But she was genuinely and rightfully concerned about the safety of her family.

          She warned me to not answer personal messages, she said most of them are scammers trying to get purchase.

  2. Good job that I do not want kiddos. I write all the time- but I do feel guilty that the dog has not been walked for over 6 months now….

  3. I’ve never expected blogging to make any money for me. While it’s fun to dream, you are right, it’s not as good of a deal as it sounds. I blog to practice writing, and lo and behold, it has helped me improve! I’ll keep doing it so that when a real writing opportunity hits me, I’ll be ready for it.

    • I think you are a fantastic writer. There is nothing like writing regularly to improve your craft. I know I’ve gotten better, especially when I look at old posts which are solid blocks of text with no pictures, links, or enhancements.

      I’m not sure there will ever be a legitimate opportunity for me because all I can write about is myself. I don’t have a whole lot of range.

  4. I think most bloggers write for the sake of writing, as it grants a feeling of accomplishment or unleashes creativity we’ve otherwise stocked up. You’re a fabulous mom and I’ll be hanging around to read your posts when you choose to write. Cheers!

  5. Um, yes you DO write for me! After a morning of playdoh, tinker toys, toddler dancing, vacuuming, watching garbage trucks in the snow, and multiple snacks …Ferris is now parked in front of pbs kids and I am perusing the iPad. Thank you Viv for the respite from my toddler purgatory. So cool to read about you in SF and at the same time to fantasize about my little sucker fish walking to school on his own. I love the quote about motherhood, except the young part because I am so fucking old. And the pic of the boys in the tub- yummy bathtub soup!

    • Yes, it is true, I write for you. I write for you because you are such a cool person and you have given me great parenting advice over the years, even before you had your own “sucker fish”. You might be old, but you still have a bangin’ rack.

      • Good parenting advice? ME? If I had any inspiration of my own I don’t remember it. But the advice you gave me when Ferris was just tiny is what I pass on to new moms now- catch some sleep whenever you can and ignore the chores. But don’t feel bad if insomnia strikes because it’s very hard to sleep with a gun to your head. So wise!

  6. Good on you for letting them walk to school without a parent around. All four of my children attend school without me dragging them about. In their early years of schooling they caught the bus and now they walk.

    The first place we lived where we are now was a 10 minute walk crossing several roads. One of them kinda busy. This time is a good time for them to debrief as they walk home from school without being constantly monitored. And if they’re walking with friends, then all the better for them.

  7. Wonderfully expressed. And I will keep reading about your journey. I think the best step has been your own space btw. I would go insane in your house since clutter drives me crazy.
    Take care and enjoy the boys. It’s a lot different when they grow up. The conversations are a lot deeper though.

    • Creating my own space has been a lifesaver, especially in this deep cold we’ve had. I spend most of my time upstairs where it’s warmer and the light is better. It has done wonders for me. I still feel the frustration and depression when I look around too much at the dining and sun room.

      We are actively looking for an off-site space for Lonny so the end should be near. He’s suffering in the cold when he spends hours in his unheated garage searching for sold items. I think he’s pretty motivated.

  8. Hahahahah – Awesome! I probably shouldn’t include that little exchange about names in the baby book should I? :) I am so looking forward to all of your (and Loony’s) baby advice.
    Your writing here is beautiful, sweet, thoughtful and hopeful. It is fun to see you in this mood. One of the things I love about your blog is how willing to write your emotions you are. Each entry has it’s signature Viv style and a window through to your heart. Thank you for sharing that with all of us.
    Your use of the poster is cracking me up!

    • I’m glad you liked it! And thanks for the poster! I really want to make a “making of” timpano movie with you.

      Yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve to be sure. Some have questioned my mental stability. I think I’m stable. I’m just in the habit of not sugar coating anything.

  9. Wow, this post really ran the gamut from hilarious to thought provoking to bittersweet. I need to step away from the computer now myself. Totally relating. Great post, Viv.

Really? No way.

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