Life with Liz: Moments to appreciate
Nobody becomes a mom because they want to bask in gratitude and appreciation all day. I’m guessing that most days, most moms would say that they’re undervalued and underappreciated by most of the family most of the time. And, I’m also guessing that most moms aren’t terribly bothered by that. We knew what we were getting in to when we signed up for the gig.
Sure, this weekend will end with most of us getting cards, flowers, breakfasts in bed, and other tokens of appreciation, and we will graciously accept it in the spirit that our families and the greeting card companies intend it. Then we’ll roll out of bed and try not to cringe at the mess in the kitchen that we’ll have to clean up eventually.
Most moms also spend a lot of time worrying about whether we’re doing “it” right or not. Are our kids getting enough free time, enough vegetables, are they dressed appropriately for the weather, do they have the right baseball helmet to keep them from getting a concussion? Are our punishments too severe? Not severe enough? If I give in to my kid today am I setting him up to be an entitled monster in the workplace in 20 years?
We can read blogs and parenting books and magazines, and what magic works for one family can be a disaster for another. And even when you think you’ve done everything right, your sweet, cheerful, chubby-cheeked adolescent can turn into a sulky, broody, pimply faced teenager overnight and all bets are off.
So why are we doing this again? Aside from the survival of the species depending on it? It’s a question I find myself asking quite a bit lately. You know what they say, “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.” The kids have been getting bigger, and I’m starting to understand that saying a little too well, and I’m a little nervous about their continued growth.
The answer to this question came to me when I was least expecting it. It had been another hectic evening of juggling two kids’ practices with the third’s spring band concert. I dashed in late to fulfill my obligation to help shepherd the younger kids in and out of the auditorium, and frazzled as I tried to text the Wonderful Husband directions to where I had haphazardly thrown my jacket to save us seats. Invariably, I forget to ask my kids which side of the stage they’re sitting on, and I always pick the wrong one.
After getting everyone situated, and finding my seat in the semi-darkness, I ran through a quick mental checklist to make sure everyone was where they belonged and then settled back to try to enjoy the concert. I breathed one more quick sigh of relief when A finally appeared on stage, wearing the right clothes, that still bore some semblance to the ironed outfit I had hung up for him an hour earlier, with his trumpet and mouthpiece, ready to play.
Halfway through the program, the band launched into a rousing rendition of one of the most iconic songs of all time, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” and my jaw hit the ground. My kids are no strangers to the song and they know I love it. I suspected that A wanted to surprise me, as he had kept the program under wraps for months.
As I watched my soon-to-be teenager jamming on the auditorium stage, I couldn’t help but think of every cheesy high school movie ever made, and how iconic the scene I was watching unfold in front of me was, and how lucky A was to participate in it. As I watched him bop in time to the music and clearly enjoy himself, while helping to create an absolute delight of a performance, I was in awe of the talent that was in front of me.
I found myself thinking, “Wow, that is one amazing kid up there, and I’m so proud of him.” All of a sudden, a tiny little voice echoed in my brain, “and you helped create him, and that is just as awesome.” I’m not sure where that voice came from. Those usually aren’t thoughts that cross my mind in such situations, but there it was.
For once, I didn’t assume any false modesty or try to brush the thought away. Instead, I embraced it, and said to myself, “Yes, I did.” In that split second, the past 13 years of anguish and worry were vanquished, and for just a moment, I felt such a burst of pride and confidence, in both myself and A, who had moved on to another fantastic performance. In that moment, it was all worth it.
The concert ended soon after that, and at about 9 p.m., I reinvested myself in the mom facts that we hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and I still had to get the other two rounded up and make sure homework was finished, and clothes for the next day were laid out, start a load of laundry, and have everyone in bed by 9:30. That flash of confidence was over as quickly as it started.
Since then, I’ve been looking for more moments where I can quietly bask in the awesomeness that is my kids. One day last week, I happened to get home before the kids did and surprised them by having a snack ready for them and spent a few minutes recapping their day before we dashed off to evening activities. E gave me a big hug afterward said, “That was the best part of my day.”
While it certainly was a high point of mine, too, the real score for me was that she is still willing to admit that I can be the center of her universe.
Ten minutes later, she and G were once again squabbling over who sat in what seat in the car, and baseball bats were getting thrown around the car and banged off windows, and A was sulking in the very back seat, miserable at having been evicted from the couch.
That was my cue to turn up the radio, and play a little Journey.
Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.