Parenthood: June 2008 Archives

Raising Burt Reynolds

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This morning I told Liam to brush his teeth before going downstairs, like he has everyday since he became bi-pedal and demonstrated the motor skills to brush his teeth. He rolled his eyes at me and ran down the hall with his plastic lightsaber before going downstairs. Ewan, whose motivation to obey comes from the delight in telling on his brother, shouted: "LEE-YUM DINIT BRWUSH HIS TEEFS!" Then Liam shouted back and Ewan responded in a louder tone and they went at it for however long it took me to scrape my exploded brains off the floor.

Liam started to notice girls mid-way through the year, right around the time he didn't want me to kiss him on the cheek anymore whenever I'd drop him off at art or Spanish class. Great. So it begins I thought. One day after his home lessons he placed a crumpled-up dollar bill in my hand, winked and said "Thanks for the lessons, hon. Here, go crazy." I sat there and blinked; he was a tiny Burt Reynolds, save for the chest hair, beef-burns, and gold-rimmed 70s sunglasses. He bought candy for some girl at an event we attended recently; she skipped over to show all her friends and they clucked like a den of gold-diggers. I've never met Clay Aiken's mom but I'm pretty sure that I sounded like her with that last line.

Liam is just a few years from that dreaded land called 'tweendom, a place where some Adam Sandler look-alikes called the Jonas Brothers live, a place where Disney starlets flounce around and act wholesome, a place where innocence is a commodity. Dramatic much, yes.

He's started acting a little sassier at home and developed a habit of not listening. I may as well talk to a cigar store Indian; the results would be the same. I tell him not to do something, he does it. I tell him to do something, he doesn't do it. He wasn't always like this and I've decided to fight fire with fire. He doesn't wash up and come to the table for dinner? We'll eat without him. "Dude, you missed eating with us? Guess you'll have to eat cold food by yourself. Sucks for you." Or "Oh, you didn't put your dirty laundry in the clothes hamper like you were told? Wow, that's probably why I didn't wash any of your clothes. I just don't see them if they're not in the hamper. Guess you won't have anything clean to wear tomorrow, huh? Bummer." There's also "Oh, you didn't do your independent reading last night? I'll have to mark a zero in the grade book for that assignment. No makegoods, sorry." It's working beautifully. Chris and I refuse to hold ourselves responsible for his bad behavior and Liam will be taught out of the gate that his actions have a consequence - whether that consequence is negative or positive depends on him.

We also recently unveiled "grounding" in the house of Loesch, and I'm not even going to fake that I didn't feel a little flutter the first time I uttered the phrase "You're grounded." I don't enjoy dishing out punishment to my kids but there's a certain irony in saying that to your spawn. When my mom would tell me that I was grounded I always told myself how mean she was, I was just so misunderstood, I would NEVER ground my children because I will be a better, more inventive parent. And then I grew up and realized that I use some of the same tactics my parents did and if I met up with my teenaged self, she'd think I sucked, too.

Age has a cruel sense of humor.

Happy Father's Day

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The smartest decision I ever made as a woman, as a mother, was choosing Chris to be my partner and father of my kids. I woke up early, tip-toed around the house, and made him cheesy scrambled eggs.

Until my archives are fully restored, you can't go back and read how I've often struggled with this day because of my rolling stone. I've graduated to a simple sadness which doesn't overshadow my day because I've reaped a good father in a multitude of other ways. For that I'm grateful. It does bring to mind this song, that Chris could've have written simply because of the shared perspective.

Happy Father's Day to everyone who chooses the role, who plays the part, who walks the walk.

Liam asked me the most brilliant question yesterday. As I slipped on my heels I leaned over and explained to him that his grandmother and dad were going to be sad today and that he may see them cry. He knew why as Chris and I've had the Second Biggest Talk with him, the talk about death and dying which rightfully precedes the discussion of birds and bees. (Which we haven't had yet. We may be mourning me when we do.)

I told him that we were mourning the death of his great-grandfather.

"What is mourning?" he asked.

"Mourning is when we cry and are upset because we lost someone or something. After we lose someone, we're sad and that's called mourning." 

"Oh." I thought we were finished and went to reach for my earrings when he figuratively socked me in the gut:

"Why do people mourn? What are they mourning?"

I was overcome by all the ways I could answer this. People mourn a loved one's company. They mourn the guiding presence lost with an elderly person and the loss of potential with a young person. We mourn because we miss a person, for sure. Because maybe we worry about the state of their soul in the afterlife: were they welcomed into the pearly gates to the sound of a thousand angels singing, were they told "Well done, my good and faithful servant?" Or are they sitting in some sort of waiting room purgatory worse than that of a doctor's office? Or ... what if they believed in nothing? That's something about which I worry, depending on whom we're mourning.

I think there's another, larger reason for why we mourn. We're never more aware of our own mortality than when standing next to a casket paying our last respects.

Ten years ago I was one of "the grandkids." My mom and her brothers and sisters were "the kids." My grandparents were simply "Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa." And then they passed away and we all climbed one step up on this giant generational staircase. My mom and her brothers and sisters are now the "grandmas and grandpas." My cousins and me are now "the kids." My own children, all the great-grandchildren, are now "the grandkids." We'll all take another step up again, and again, inevitable, scary steps. 

I'm sad over losing my family traditions under my grandparents and having to make my own, but when you strip it all away it's really just sadness and anxiety about how all of this will end one day. I believe in the existence of a somewhere beyond the blue and the beckoning of angels et al. (name that hymn!) but this is all I've ever known. The notion of going from one world where I've defined myself by my relationships - a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend -  to another world where those relationships are irrelevant (i.e. Jesus says in the Gospel that we're not married nor given in marriage in Heaven) kind of unsettles me. It's a mild crisis of self-definition.

And all of this flew through my head and the moment where I stood in my closet staring at Liam and messing with my earrings seemed like an hour. I knew that he wouldn't understand this, and that it may confuse or frighten him, so for the moment, I responded with a simple "because we miss that person's company and that's what we mourn." The answer satisfied him. It didn't satisfy me.

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