Halloween on Halloween, dammit!

Some of my blog posts are sparked by things I see on social media. Let’s be honest, spend some time on social media and you’ll see all the crazies come out to play. Now I have spent significant time clearing crazy out of my personal life, but I must admit I enjoy a certain amount of “people watching” when it comes to the crazy, from a distance, of course, which social media allows you to do.

Now on this week’s episode of crazy watching, we had not one, not two, but TONS of sanctimommies up in arms and ready for action. Why, you ask? Because the weather forecast called for rain on Halloween, and this was simply not acceptable. Their solution? Move the holiday to another day so that their child won’t get dampened by Trick or Treating. Now, this wasn’t a case of “oh boo, it’s raining so I have to find an alternative plan to take my kids trick or treating because I don’t want to walk in the rain. This was a whole MOVEMENT where women called town hall and their representatives to MOVE a holiday for everyone else so their snookums didn’t get damp. Some comments I actually saw: “wet leaves are SLIPPERY!” and “I spent over $60 on my child’s costume!”

Let me preface what I am about to say by saying I am all for a kinder, more inclusive society. I am all for everyone being equal, for accepting differences, and I teach my children as such. Now, that being said, I am concerned that our quests to raise a kinder, gentler group of children mean that we are hovering too much over our kids. In our quest to give our children an easier life than perhaps we had, we are helicopter parenting, trying to remove obstacles, while believing we are being better parents than prior generations, and frankly, I’m not sure that’s the case.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember I ventured out to try to be more of a free range parent on certain levels. I had realized at one point, that things I did with great confidence and ease as a child, my kids didn’t/couldn’t do, simply because I’d never given them space too. In my quest to protect them, keep them safe, and be helpful, I was instead keeping them a bit stunted in some areas, where they didn’t have certain skills because they’d never had to learn them. I am a child of the 80’s, and parents back then were very live and let live with their kids. We rode bikes without helmets, car seats were lacking, and we were outside playing all the time until the street lights came on. I’m quite confident there were times my parents weren’t entirely sure where I was all the time, but they rested easy knowing I knew the rules and would be home on time. Ever watch an 80’s movie with your kids and hear their commentary on it? They think some of what we did as kids was completely implausible because they could never do those things now. Of course, when you know better, you do better, and certain things are leaps and bounds safety wise nowadays. But some things, like kids being outside playing all afternoon, and being street smart in the suburbs aren’t quite as common as they used to be. And I think it’s sad.

As a child, my mom and dad taught me to navigate airports, neighborhoods, and spaces. I was encouraged to explore, read the signs, and I learned to get around where I was. I knew who to look for if I got lost or ran into trouble. There was always a loose plan in place. I am so grateful for that push to be independent and responsible for myself. I have grown up feeling confident I can navigate where I need to go, can handle travelling (despite my dislike of flying I am good at getting myself wherever I need to go). They taught me a love of exploring, and the confidence to feel secure while doing so. It was one of the best gifts they ever gave me.

Now we have parents who are afraid their child will step on a wet leaf.

I have to ask myself, what will these children do when they grow up and enter adulthood? Will they call out of work because leaves are slippery?

If you’ve been a reader of this blog a while, you’ll remember that my first foray into letting the kids roam the neighborhood with other kids resulted in my daughter going momentarily missing. She had simply gone down to her friend’s house and gone to play in their back yard. I didn’t know that, however, and panicked when I couldn’t see her. I called the police. You know, I got some snide and nasty comments by some people locally for “losing my daughter”. Folks love to judge, right? But you know who I DIDN’T get a harsh word from? The police officer who came to help me find her. She was found moments after they arrived, and the cop pulled me aside to tell me I had done the right thing. He told me to not let the one bad experience change my mind, and to continue to let my kids play out in the neighborhood with their friends. He told me the police are seeing a trend with all the overbearing parenting that is causing kids to not function as well if their parents aren’t there. “If a parent is late picking up their kid, the kids are melting down and panic stricken.” he said, because they aren’t used to not having the parent right there all the time. He advised that kids don’t have the same street smarts, and aren’t as independent and responsible, which causes them to get into deeper issues as they “follow the group” because that’s all they know. I’m still learning to navigate some of this free range parenting, and I’m finding that there are ways to meet in the middle.

I look around me and see that there are two sides that are vastly opposite. One side, sadly, has parents who simply shouldn’t be parents. They aren’t involved, don’t care to be involved, and frankly, are really just shit parents. Then you have the opposite side, parents who will fill out their teen’s job applications and do follow up calls on their child’s behalf on a job interview. What we are left with from both extremes are non functioning adults.

Now, you may think I’m taking it a bit far, but honestly, some of our youth are going to struggle. The world is often a pretty harsh place. While in many ways it’s getting better, by the same token, people soon grow tired of dealing with entitled, babyish, non functioning adults. When your coworker has their mom call them out sick, or can’t come in because it’s raining…how long is that person going to be employed?

When we have to discuss moving a holiday because it might drizzle, we have a big problem. When kids can’t go outside in the rain for fear of a wet leaf, we have a problem. When people are so determined that their child not get their costume (THAT THEY WILL WEAR ONE DAY, MAYBE 2, OUT OF AN ENTIRE YEAR) wet that they call town hall and demand the day get postponed, I have to question our sanity as a nation. The level of tunnel vision and self entitlement is strong, and kind of frightening.

We need to teach our children that life has challenges, and that they need to problem solve to ride up and overcome those challenges. You know, like….carry an umbrella.

Happily, Halloween was celebrated on Halloween this year. Common sense prevailed, and the weather actually broke to give us a few hours of dry time. We had a house full of people as usual, family and friends coming together to haunt the neighborhood, give out candy, and make the night a little extra special. I always say Halloween is my husband’s holiday in the family, because it might just be his favorite. Yet I too have a deep love for the traditions we’ve started, and the plans we’ve made to go even bigger next year!

Even a little rain won’t dampen our fun!

Christmas Thoughts in August

This morning, we found our old video camera and some tapes. I had been looking for the camera for years, as I got it as a gift from my parents the Christmas before we had my son. It was also what we knew was going to be the last Christmas with my mom.

That Christmas was such a strange mix of happiness and devastation. My now husband and I drove down to Virginia to spend Christmas with my parents. Until that point (we were still dating at the time) I believe we had each spent the holiday with our own families, but this Christmas was different. My family is British, so of course we held it all together and put on the famous British “stiff upper lip” but each of us knew that the next year, it would be very very different.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday. It was just my parents and I in the US but my mom made every effort to make Christmas magical. If we got to go to England for Christmas it was even MORE magical because then I had my cousins to play with and my massive family around me. While my parents didn’t have a lot of money in my younger years, my mom somehow managed to pull together enough money to get whatever was on the top of my list plus more. It wasn’t just gifts though. She just had an air about her that made the holiday absolutely magical.

2005 was the year my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. By the books, she wasn’t supposed to live more than a couple of months. The cancer had started in her lungs, spread to her liver and pancreas, which are some of the worst places for it to go. She would end up living until June of 2006, but at the time, we never looked up what the books said. We just lived and took each day at a time. That year, I was inherently aware that it was likely my last Christmas with her. This broke me inside in ways I’ll never be able to explain, and I hid that grief from everyone, including my husband. He knew I was struggling, but nobody else knew just how bad it was for me at the time. I put on a brave face most of the time, and soldiered on. It wasn’t until I could be 100% alone that I really let it all come pouring out, and then I bottled it right back up. I couldn’t let my parents see how bad it was because they had their own battles to fight and I didn’t want extra worry about me falling into the mix. They were worried enough.

I was very pregnant that Christmas, and the hormones sure didn’t help me tackle the grief process. My parents I believe had gotten me the camera (althought perhaps we got it?) but I remember recording moments in the kitchen, including one of my mom cooking Christmas dinner. I’ve thought about that moment for years. This was back before smartphones and everyone having a camera and video recording device in their pocket. I’ve spent years wondering if that video was there, and most importantly, if I could hear the sound of her voice. I’ve missed that voice…the sing song “Hello Sweetheart!” and joking “Ya cheeky bugger!” in her British accent more than I can ever say. I just wanted to hear her voice.

This morning, my husband found the camera and tapes, far back in his closet, and handed them to me. It felt like Christmas. I was beyond excited. What was interesting is that yesterday, after having a particularly bad day, I looked up in my linen closet and saw the quilt my mom had given me that Christmas in 2005. I remember the card she had written, asking me to remember that particular Christmas as it was likely our last Christmas together. Somewhere, I have the card stashed away and the blanket has been in my linen closet to keep it safe.

I plugged the old camera in and was thrilled to see it still worked. I popped in tape after tape. Sadly, it looks like the footage I was looking for may have been taped over. On the bright side, it was footage of my husband’s family gathered around the table at a family event, and my father in law is there. He passed away a few years after my mom did. I excitedly told my husband we had footage of his dad, as well as another clip of him holding our son for the first time in the hospital. It was incredibly sweet to see, and to see everyone from 13 years ago in all their youth. There is video of me in the labor and delivery room, in labor, recording while my husband is fast asleep. I found video of them laying my newborn son on my chest while I was in recovery. There was video of my husband talking to the baby in silly voices, and making me cry with laughter by doing silly dances. There was footage of his first birthday party, some of his first steps, him telling me he was scared of thunder, and us being first time parents. There are silver linings.

My house was clean back then too. Isn’t it funny that I made note of that? but it was. Lots of toys around, but it was clean.

2 kids, work, pets, life happened, but ok, I did miss the cleanness of the house back in the day.

That being said, I wouldn’t change it. I love our life and our crazy house. Floors can be dusted. I want the memories.

If there’s one thing that’s been reiterated to me today, it’s to get in the pictures. Get the videos and get IN the videos. One day my kids may be looking for me and my voice in the old home videos. One day they will want to see our memories in a visual form. I want to be in them, and leave them my voice, my love on a screen as a reminder, and to be present. Times have changed and videos are so EASY to make now. I know my mom often didn’t like being on film etc, but I wish I had made more of an effort to get her one screen and in videos. I’d be more content now to be able to hear her and see her on screen on those days I miss her.

In a few weeks, I am headed down to see my dad and step mother. I plan on taking videos. I want voices, and memories for not only me, but for my children as well. I realized I don’t have many pictures and videos of my dad. Not as many as I would like, anyway. It’s time to correct that, while I have the chance.

Seize the day.

Getting Old While Staying Young

I saw a meme on facebook the other day that said “One of the weirder things about being an adult is having a favorite stovetop burner, yet nobody talks about it.” I laughed way too hard at this, because I too have one (back left, because with kids back is safer and left has the bigger burner). I notice other little changes about getting older, many which are stereotypical. I go to bed earlier, I wake up easier in the morning. A night curled up in bed sometimes beats the idea of a night at the bar. I also realized this weekend that driving long distances has become a lot more difficult. When I was younger, we moved to Virginia, and I often drove up and down the I95 corridor on the weekends in the blink of an eye. Drove down Friday afternoon, back Sunday. I did this often consecutive weeks, for consecutive months. This past weekend, the kids and I drove down to visit my dad. Good Lord O’mighty, 7 hours in the car felt like time eternal! We arrived at 10PM and I couldn’t WAIT to go crawl into a nice comfy bed and relax!

The moment my little old ladyhood jump started into full effect was Sunday night. First, some backstory. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before on here but when I was a kid, my mom had her wedding china. It was a beautiful set with roses on it, very British. I loved it. I loved the print, even as a kid, but I also loved the fact it symbolized the three of us were having a special meal (usually Christmas or Thanksgiving. I unfortunately grew up 3000 miles away from all of my extended family. My dad traveled a LOT for work. My poor mom never really got enough credit from me for all she did, because she handled EVERYTHING. On holidays though, the special dishes came out, and I remember looking down at them and just feeling….happy. Well, my mom said I could have them after she died, only there was some confusion, and they accidentally got sold in the estate sale. I mourned those dishes, and was CRUSHED. Fast forward 12 years, and my husband got me a set of 4 settings for Christmas. I was thrilled to pieces, and he said he would over time help me get some more so I had at least settings for 8. Well, last week, I had just downloaded the Nextdoor app, and saw something pop up about THOSE VERY DISHES. Unused, settings for 4, for a steal. I messaged immediately, but someone had beat me to it. The seller told me someone was picking them up, but would let me know if they were a no show. I checked that damned phone every 15 minutes for the rest of the day, hoping by some miracle the original poster might not show. I never heard back, and consoled myself by saying perhaps those dishes just weren’t meant to be mine (I was full of shit. I wanted those dishes like I want to snarf down a box of girl scout frozen thin mints after a hard day). Still, I tried to keep positive, and said I’d get a set one day. Then I laughed at the fact I am still relatively young, but such a mental old lady that china dishes were such a big topic with me.

Well, a week went by, and suddenly during dinner Sunday, I see a message. It’s from the seller, saying she had waited a whole week, but the buyer never showed. Would I still want the dishes?

Would I like perky books and a rounder butt? YES GIRL, AND I WANT THOSE DISHES TOO!

I told the seller I absolutely did, and I would be home Tuesday, could I come then? So today, I am picking up my coveted dishes, in all my little old lady glory!!!

My dad was chuckling at my old lady dish desires. I explained the significance, and he understood then. The simple fact is that I am highly sentimental about things, where as he has almost no attachment to stuff or items at all. This explains my house, cluttered and chaotic, and his immaculate environment. I tried to explain why I am sentimental about such things, and told him about another Christmas gift this year from my husband. When I was a kid, I had rain shiny wellies (rainboots for the Americans in the audience). I LOVED those boots. They were probably my first pair of shoes I truly adored. I loved how red they were, how shiny, and how I could run in mud and simply rinse them off to their shiny glory. They were perfect and versatile. After I grew out of them, I don’t think it ever occurred to me to ask for another pair. It’s silly really, because I never asked for some but holy shit, I wanted some. This past Christmas, my husband got me a pair of red shiny wellies. I am joyous. My dad was so perplexed why A. I loved them so, B. why I never just simply asked for another pair once I outgrew mine if I loved them so much, and C why I have such a sentimental attachment to stuff. I explained he should be happy, really….because I had such a great childhood that things that remind me of that childhood make me extremely happy. Those dishes? I was beaming on Christmas eating off them. The boots? Joy when I slide them on. I may be a little old lady mentally, but those things bring me back in time to a carefree moment of running in fields, or eating my favorite foods with my two favorite people. They are tradition.

This morning, after a 6 hour drive last night, I feel old as hell. That drive I did so carefree and without much thought at 18 is a lot harder now. My back aches, my brain is tired from concentrating on the road for so long. I am content to be home though. This is a busy week, filled with the little getting braces, training a new coworker, a comedy show and date night, a trip to NY, my birthday (little old lady getting OLDER, y’all. I’ll be in a housecoat and yelling for people to get off my lawn in NO time!) and all the other business that family is. It’s a week of excitement.

My son and I were talking in the car on our long drive home. We have some of our best chats in the car. He is excited for our birthdays, he says. He means he is excited for HIS birthday, because he is turning 13 in a couple of weeks. I can’t even. How have 13 years gone by so fast? He asked me if I am sad I am getting older. I said I am not sad I am getting older. While getting older is a little scary, as you start to see more time behind you and less in front of you, and time seems to go by much faster now, I am grateful for a birthday. Some of my friends and loved ones no longer have that luxury. They don’t get another birthday, another year, like I do. So I am grateful for that birthday. I am grateful for my little life, filled with good people. I am grateful to be a little old lady at heart, with her favorite stove burner, a joy of a quiet night in, pretty dishes, and rain boots that shine bright and red. I enjoy it all (minus the back aches and pains) but I find joy in reminding myself of all the happy moments of being a kid.