Saturday, January 17, 2015

Then the lazy mom said, "Let them eat fruit!"

I wasn't always lazy.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was anything BUT lazy. I was busy reading books and exercising and eating right and taking vitamins and avoiding secondhand smoke and paint fumes and lying on my left side and writing my birth plan. My pregnancy could not have been any more textbook and I was sure it was because of everything I had done right.

Ya think that snowman built himself?
I wasn't anticipating being a stay-at-home mom (and I don't regret it) but once I realized that's how it was going to be I went into full-blown "that mommy other mommies hate" mode. I mean, according to the books, I only had until they were three years old to basically SHAPE THEIR MINDS. So little time, so many "fun learning opportunities."

From homemade play dough, forts made out of cardboard boxes and a membership to the local children's museum in the winter to play dates at the park, a "water obstacle course" in the back yard and an "edible garden" in the summer, I was freakin' ON IT. And I wasn't the one sitting on the bench watching their kids play on the playground. Oh, I was envious of those moms, but felt my little one would learn more if I was hovering behind him, encouraging him to do one more monkey bar yet right there if he started to fall.

Fast forward to grade school and you can ask any teacher - I was the annoying mom who was constantly emailing them or signing up for the room party or Picture Person or any committee or group that would involve me in my kids' educational journey. I headed up the ice cream social for years, served on the school carnival committee and was at every PTC meeting. When I could, I came to the school and had lunch with my kids, walked them to school every morning and picked them up every afternoon, even though we lived just across the street.

Apple smiles. Fruit that smiles at you.
That was the kind of mom I thought I was supposed to be. I was a MOM, for God's sake. I was the one they were looking to, and learning from. I was the one they asked "WHY?" to a million times because they knew I had the answer (even though half the time I made one up.) I was the one who made their owies go away, who put food in their hungry bellies (displaying their meals in a plethora of creative animal shapes) and who made sure that errands were NEVER run during nap time, for their sake and mine. I had carefully and successfully orchestrated every moment of their life, as I thought I should.

At some point, though, I got lazy.

I think it was probably around middle school. Middle school, you know, is that black hole of a time period when you are smacked with the realization that your kid is growing up and you are no longer going to know every move he makes. In fact, no one really wants you to, especially your kid. It was tough to be involved on a parent level at my kids' middle school. I was working, my first son's school was way across town, and my second kids' school had PTO meetings during the day. Every once in awhile I'd hear a kid's name come up in conversation that I'd never heard before. "Who's that?" I'd ask. "My best friend," my son would say. HUH? What the hell? When did this happen?

So with that part of my parenting fortress blown away, I was demoted to what I could do at home. I made sure my kids had a full breakfast in the morning. That I made. Before I went to work. And I packed a nutritious lunch. Every day. My kids never took hot lunch. Not once. And dinner was always at the kitchen table, cooked by me. And I can't cook. But I sure tried.

Canoeing! What fun!
I planned outings every weekend - things we could do as a family but would still be fun even if you're with your family. Rock climbing. Packing snacks and taking a hike. Going to a local pool or water park. Bicycle Safety Town. Sledding. Ice Skating. Ice cream on Grandview Drive. I would scour my brain and the internet for new, fun ideas to do with my growing kids to keep them active and learning and engaged with their awesome mom.

Then I don't know what happened. They got older. Any time I mentioned going anywhere, they balked. Even if I said they could bring a friend. They wanted to stay home. They wanted to go to a friend's house. Everyone's house was cooler than ours. Everyone's mom was better/nicer/funnier than me. So I stopped planning. I stopped asking. I stopped doing.

If I asked my son to go on a hike right now, he'd probably look at me like I just told him to bite off his right arm. Yet he still can't eat a meal unless I prepare it. Yes, I still make all their meals, but they're not anything spectacular. In fact, they're pretty sad. Especially sad is the fact I still make them when they're perfectly capable of doing it themselves. But if I let them make them, I surmise, they won't be nutritious. And it'll be one more thing I don't have control of. And me making their meals is the only control I have left. It's the only way they'll eat fruit. That's how I rationalize it. No matter that when they're on their own, they'll have NO idea how to make anything on their own. Like macaroni and cheese. Or a microwaveable meal. Or cutting up an apple. Which they probably won't do, because the only time they'll eat fruit is if I prepare it for them.

I've truly lost my role. I don't know what it means to mom kids of these ages. I always wished I could be the house where all the kids hung out because that mom was so cool. This is not that house. I am not that mom. I tried, and it was easier when they were younger - to be that mom that comes out with the huge box of Popsicles and always has plenty of sidewalk chalk. But that doesn't cut it anymore, and I'm not the cool mom who lets her kid play Grand Theft Auto on the latest video game system and eat pizza on the couch. I'm just too lazy and too tired to be cool. I'm tired of trying to be parent of the year. I think I expelled all my mommy energy when the kids were young and I've just run out of juice.

Back when I didn't have to drag them outside.
I wish I could be the mom whose kids still LOVE hanging out with. I see kids and parents like that and I'm envious. I try to strike up conversations with my kids in the car or some other non-threatening place, just to let them know that I care about their lives and that they can tell me anything. They really can. But they don't. And they won't. Maybe someday? I don't know. Maybe someday we'll have that awesome relationship where my sons call me once a week to tell me what's going on in their lives. I hope so. Selfishly - totally selfishly - I feel like I should get more for all those years of homemade play dough, cardboard forts and animal-shaped sandwiches. But maybe what I'll get is someday seeing MY sons doing the same thing with their kids. Maybe THAT'S my reward.

I know my kids have to grow up. But like back when I was a new mom, I'm still as unsure of my role now as I was then. How much is too much, and how little is not enough? Have I over-mom'ed? Am I over mom'ing now, am I being lazy or have I just not figured out how to mom at this age?

It's been nearly 18 years, and I'm still trying to figure out this mom thing every single day. And one day, I might be able to look in the mirror and say, "I was a good mom today." I don't know when that will be. Until then, though, I'm still making their meals - for awhile, anyway. I mean, it's the only way they'll eat fruit, right?