The MOJO of Christmas

Christmas is magical.  And if you’re an Odessa, Texas, Permian football fan – Christmas is pure MOJO.

Kids are so honest.  Listen how my son tells the story of the birth of Jesus – and notice my daughter’s little voice when her daddy makes the request.

Nothing sweeter than the little voices of my babies.  Twenty years ago they were babies, today they’re who I want to be when I grow up.

Magic I tell you, pure magic.

Do-overs

In my last post I told you how much I missed my kids.  Nothing’s changed, but I wanted to share a few tips with you so that you wouldn’t have to experience 1,500 miles of distance between you and your children like I have to.

First of all, I always told my kids that they could go anywhere.  I told them not to limit their college selections based on close proximity to home but rather to use that time to go out and see the world.

What was I thinking?

When Stephen was a senior in high school we took him to Los Angeles and it was during that trip that he decided he wanted to live on the beach and go to college at UCLA.  Courtney’s junior year we took a trip to New York and that’s all it took to convince her that she was destined to attend New York University.  What were we thinking?

The summer of 2006 was horrible.  Courtney graduated from high school and was headed to NYU and Stephen, after 2 years at the University of Oklahoma, had been accepted at UCLA.  In August, we rented a U-Haul and drove Stephen’s belongings to California, then boarded a plane to New York to get Courtney situated in the Big Apple.

In a one week time frame, my kids were bi-coastal.

I cried the ugly cry all the way home from New York.  Then I spent several months drowning my sorrows with double stuffed Oreos.

It was awful. I gained 30 pounds and slept with my cell phone in case they called.

I thought that raising my kids to think for themselves was the right thing to do.  I figured that the worst that could happen would be that they would vote for a Democrat.  Boy was I wrong.

Now Stephen is working and living in Houston, and in a few months he will be transferring to Denver.  Courtney has decided that pursuing a career in screenwriting will mean that she will move to Canada after she graduates.

If you don’t want to end up like me, with an empty nest, here are my suggestions:

1.  Never take your kids to vacation spots that are also college towns.

2.  Aside from the geography that they study in 8th grade, don’t tell them that life exists outside a 50 mile radius.

3.  When they question the existence of  cities like New York City or Los Angeles, LIE.  Tell them those aren’t real places, just Hollywood fantasy.

4.  Most importantly, lay on the guilt.  Tell them how sad you will be if they move away. And,

5.  If all else fails, bribe them.  Or lock them in their rooms, whichever comes easier.

I am proud of my kids.  I live my life vicariously through them.  Stephen spends every third or fourth weekend in Mexico or Italy vacationing.  Courtney is being mentored by the best writers and moguls in the media world.  Stephen makes more money than his dad does and Courtney is becoming a very sought-after entertainment graphic designer.

I don’t know whether to be jealous of them or excited that when they put us out to pasture, they’ll be able to afford designer Mu Mu’s for me and a room with a view for their dad.

I miss my kids

It was April the last time I saw my beautiful Courtney, and my Stephen is in Houston.  While I’ll get to see Courtney at Thanksgiving in New York, it will most likely be Christmas before I see my son.

I miss my kids.  And it’s my fault.

When I was raising my kids I used to tell them that after high school they could go anywhere.  That was the time for them to see the world – there’s more to this life than Oklahoma.  I love the Sooner state, but I wanted them to have a choice – to see what was out there and then make the choice as to where they wanted to live.  If all else failed, they could always come home.

I admit, I was trying a little reverse psychology, and it didn’t work.  I thought if I told them to go, they would choose to stay.  I was wrong.

And now, as the holidays approach, I start getting sad.

That’s to be expected.  But I’ve also reached a place in my life where my kids are happy and they don’t really need me as much as they used to.  Whereas before I would get at LEAST one call a day from Courtney and a call or two a week from Stephen, now I’m lucky if Stephen has time for me once a month and Courtney does good to have time for me once a week.

I understand that they are living the lives I raised them to live, but I didn’t know it would hurt so much.  I LIKE my kids, I LOVE my kids, and I MISS my kids.  I spent 25 years being their mom, and now, they don’t need me.

So I’m baking.  I’m sending them all the goodies that they can’t get anywhere else.  I’m tempting them, enticing them, bribing them – whatever it takes – to remind them that there’s no place like home.  Caramel popcorn, fudge, party mix and puppy chow – all their favorites.

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.  I know they’re living the lives they were intended to live.  But I would suggest to other moms out there – make home the place that nothing can compete with.

Or, just drill it into their little minds that Mom always comes first.  Period.

Guilt works too.  That’s my next approach.

Stupid empty nest…

Guilt by Motherhood

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”  European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”  ~Dr. Stephen Adelson

It started early and it seemed to come naturally.

No, not motherhood.

Guilt.  Guilt by Motherhood.

Dr. Adelson was our pediatrician.  We spent a lot of time in his office and now that his son is a politician, I have no doubt we were contributing to his campaign fund.  Anyway, after the third or fourth or seventeenth time of seeing the good doctor for the same, recurring ear infection, I felt like the worst mother in the world.  My son Stephen had so many ear infections the first 8 months of his life that he would drool at the sight of anything PINK.  Which may explain this now that I think of it…

Bodybuilding competition, 2006

And that’s when I asked him.  Dr. Adelson didn’t bat an eye or furrow his unibrow.  His answer has bounced around in my head for years.

What is it with American mothers?  American mothers say, “What am I doing wrong?”     European mothers say, “What’s wrong with this kid?”

Maybe it’s just me, thought I suspect I’m not alone, but whenever something went wrong with my kids, an illness or a bad grade or the VCR ate the tape with 8 episodes of Full House on it, it was MY FAULT.

Forgotten lunch money?  My fault.  Bad hair day?  My fault.

A few years ago my kids and I were talking about pregnancy and strange cravings.  I gushed about my first pregnancy with Stephen, telling him that I craved everything liquid – Coke, Hawaiian Punch, Tea, and of course, dill pickle juice.  He stared at me.  Then, he spoke.

“You drank CAFFEINE when you were pregnant with me?!”

The question hung in the air for what seemed like hours while I tried to come up with a lie compose myself.

And that’s the day I actually thanked God for cell phones because Stephen’s phone rang just in that moment and I didn’t have to explain the lie I was conjuring up in my head.

My kids didn’t blame me.  I did.  I apologized for EVERYTHING.

Don’t get me wrong.  I firmly believe that moms are human and we make mistakes and when we do, we should say we’re sorry.  But not EVERYTHING is our fault.

I’m trying to stop – really, I am.  Enough is enough.  And when the guilt becomes too much, then I do what appeases the guilt.  I bake.  I bake their favorite treats, buy their favorite snacks, put it in a big box along with a couple rolls of toilet paper (hey, you can never have too much) and ship it off to them.

I feel so much better, at least for a little while.  And then Courtney gets caught out in the rain in New York City without her umbrella and I apologize.  I feel guilty even though I had previously sent her not one, but two awesome umbrellas.  It’s my fault.  Time to bake.

Hmmm, maybe they’re on to me…

What was I thinking?

I’d like to be the ideal mother, but I’m too busy raising my kids. ~ unknown

Because my children are grown and have turned us into Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor – Stephen is a Texan and Courtney is in New York which means we will forever be torn between the two and could do our own remake of Green Acres – it’s not often that the four of us are together.  This past Christmas we were fortunate enough for that to happen.  Sitting around the dinner table that day, Stephen asked me a question that caught me off guard.

“What made you decide to have kids?  Were you bored and just needed something to do?  I mean, really, what were you thinking?”

Wow.  The truth is simple – we both wanted kids and it seemed the natural thing to do, and no, we weren’t thinking.  We weren’t thinking at all.

If I had any idea that being a mom would be so painful, that it’s a decision to forever have your heart exposed and subject to immense agony, if I had KNOWN?  I wouldn’t have chosen it.

There, I said it.

I would have done it differently.

If I had known that I would be wiping snot off a child’s nose onto my shirt while standing in line at the grocery store, I would have done it differently.

If someone had told me that childbirth would be the EASIEST part of being a parent, I would have done it differently.

If I had been able to see into the future and see the struggles my children would face, I would have done it differently.

If I had known that my children would grow up and vote for a Democrat, I would have done it differently.

There are times when I feel responsible for bringing two children into the world that have had to face life with a debilitating disease and had I known, I would never have subjected anyone to that kind of pain.

But my life would have been empty.  And the world would have missed out on having my kids in their midst.

If I had known that my son would shoot fireworks from his bedroom window and I would have to cover my face while I disciplined him so that he wouldn’t know I was laughing, I wouldn’t change a thing.

If I had known that the little girl who colored on my walls would grow up and make her mark on the world in New York City hundreds of miles from home, I wouldn’t change a thing.

If I had been able to see into the future and know that my heart would burst with pride every time I looked into their faces, I wouldn’t change a thing.

If I had known that my children would grow up and think for themselves and make their own decisions and LEAVE ME to go out and see the world and make their own homes, as adults, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from ME?  I wouldn’t change a thing.

Because my children are happy, my heart is full.  Because I have something to SHOW for how I spent the last 25 years of my life.  I have finally begun to experience a return on my investment and IT. IS. GOOD.

Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And I wouldn’t change a thing.