Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Blog Has a New Home!

Thank you for following Expect the Unexpected. I have recently moved my blog to a new site and it has a new name, Unscriptedmom. Please come follow me at http://unscriptedmom.com/. You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UnscriptedMom. Hope to see you over there!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Have You Ever Chased a Bus on the Highway? A Crazy Parenting Moment

It was my 10-year-old son’s first day of ski school on a cold, blustery day in Minnesota.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to send him that day because they were headed to a ski hill that was about an hour away, and we were scheduled to get a bunch of snow so I was worried about the drive home. But after finding out that a few of his buddies were going, my son decided that he really wanted to go. So, we hurriedly layered him up, got his ski bag and lunch bag packed and we quickly headed out to catch the bus.

We were supposed to meet the bus at a nearby mall parking lot. I pulled into the lot and there was no sign of the bus or of any other cars waiting for a bus. I frantically called another mom who told me that her husband had taken their son and that she thought the bus was on the west side of the mall. I was on the east side. It was 8:01 a.m. The bus was scheduled to depart promptly at 8:00.  I drove like a madwoman to the other side of the mall and caught sight of a school bus pulling a trailer behind it (presumably containing ski equipment) exiting the mall parking lot and heading toward the freeway. “SHHHIIITTTT!!!!!” I said in my very outside, non-mommy voice. “Mom,” my son whispered. “Did I miss the bus?”  “NO,” I retorted as I screeched out of the parking lot, hell-bent on catching that bus.

“Mom,” said my sweet son, who could sense that I was about to do something crazy, “It’s okay, we can just go home.” “No honey, you are going skiing today,"I said. "You want to go with your friends, we've paid for it and you are going.” “Are you going to drive me all the way to the ski hill,” he asked tentatively. “Nope, you are taking the bus there,” I said trying to not let him know that my heart was just about to jump outside of my body as I prepared myself for the bus chase. “But, mom….” “Honey, I got this, just sit tight.” And we were off! I raced out of the parking lot and got onto the highway on-ramp. The bus was in sight. Trying not to kill my son and myself, I accelerated a lot but resisted pushing the pedal completely to the metal.  I maneuvered my car into the lane directly to the left of the bus. My son sat motionless and speechless with the oh-no-she-is-not-possibly-doing-what-I-think-she-might-be-doing look on his face.

There was no way that I was going to drive an hour and a half each way to get this kid to ski school today, but there was also no way that he was not going to go. One small problem, what to do about the bus that I needed to get my kid on but was traveling at 55 miles an hour on the freeway?  As I cozied up right along side the bus, I had a direct view of the bus driver.  I honked. I honked again.  She finally glanced over and I caught her eyes. She looked at me with a puzzled look. I pointed to my son in the back seat. She looked at me again with the same perplexed look. I motioned for her to pull over with my right hand. She looked at me in a different way, a way that said, “Are you out of your frick’n mind?” I nodded and mouthed the word, “Please?”

Next thing I knew, the bus was exiting the highway. I quickly followed suit, and pulled up behind the bus where it was slowing to a stop on the right hand shoulder of a frontage road.  “Mom,” squeaked my son from the back seat, “I can’t get on that bus. This is the most embarrassing thing ever!”  “Oh, but you can, honey. I’m sure your buddies are thinking how cool it is that the bus pulled over for you!” He slowly got out of my car. I grabbed his ski stuff from the trunk and he and I approached the bus driver. “M’am, that was not very safe,” she said. “I know but I can’t thank you enough for stopping.”  My son slowly, gingerly got on the bus. I saw his buddies stand up to greet him and give him high-fives.

The absolutely insane, unimaginable, outlandish things we do for our kids. It took me several hours and countless deep breaths before I could even tell this story to my husband who just shook his head in disbelief.  It took me more that a year to write it down.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Look Mom! No More Training Wheels!

For the past 16 years, I have driven this kid around like a chauffeur. Basketball, tennis, baseball, school, friends’ houses, camps…a regular taxi service I was. And I am certain that I complained about it…just a few times. But today that would all change. The reality of the transition that was about to occur hit me when I got out of my car and the driver's license examiner got in and said, "We will be back in 15 minutes." "Okay, I will be here," I responded in a faint voice. I walked away and felt a surge of emotions: fear, disbelief, nostalgia all mixed up with excitement and anticipation. I stood frozen and stared at my car with my son and the tester inside, only to have my trance interrupted by my son bounding out of the car mumbling expletives, “Mom, you took the car keys!” “Oh sorry, honey,” I said as I fumbled through my purse and quickly handed them over.

I resumed my trance-like state, leaning against the outside of the driver’s license office building wanting time to stand still for just a moment. Please, just for a moment, so I can process this, wrap my brain around the idea of my son being able to drive...legally...by himself. But my phone rang and it was my husband, who was out of town, wanting a play-by-play of our son’s driver’s test.  Well, the first play I  reported was our son managing to maneuver the car directly over a curb as he pulled out of his parking spot and made a right hand turn. I wondered if that did him in. But I knew he wanted this; he wanted this badly, and he had worked hard and practiced and I believed that he would find a way to turn a rough start into an acceptable outcome.

I saw a girl get out of a car holding a piece of paper and walking toward her dad. She was beaming. “Congratulations,” I said as she walked passed me. She smiled and thanked me and proceeded into the building to fill out paperwork with her dad. I wondered about my son's fate. After 10 long minutes and not much to report to my husband, I saw my son pull the car into a parking spot. I saw him step out of the car holding a similar looking piece of paper. He had a grin on his face and immediately gave me a thumbs up. A knot formed in my throat and I tried not to let the tears well up in my eyes as I got the words, "he passed" out to my husband.

A license to drive is a right of passage, a milestone, a part of the natural progression of our children’s development and a big step toward their autonomy. It is something to celebrate.  But at the moment when he emerged from my car with the same "I did it" smile that he has given me so many times over his life, I realized that my time with my son just took a huge hit. He will no longer be forced to spend those minutes or hours in the car with me transporting him to where he needs to be. He can get there without me. Should I rejoice in this? Sure. But now that I can feel this time slip away, I clearly see how precious it was. 

On the way home, I told him that I would miss the countless hours we had together in the car, heading to and from his games, practices and social events. I would miss the talking and the not talking…just being in the confined space of my car with him.  He was quiet, still reveling in the glory of his accomplishment. I wondered if he would miss that time we had together. Maybe somewhere in the distant future he would remember and be grateful for those times, but for the present moment, I got a very strong sense from him that he couldn't wait to be free!

So, on those days when you have spent more hours turning your steering wheel than you have doing anything else, remember that your calling as a chauffeur is only temporary. Try to cherish some of on-the-road time you have with your children.  And definitely buy yourself an awesome chauffeur’s hat!

Monday, January 28, 2013

She's Going to College

It's official, she is going. A few of the colleges she has dreamed of attending wrote her letters and sent her emails saying they'd be thrilled to have her. She screamed! She jumped up and down! She was elated, beyond elated! I screamed and jumped up and down with her. I was elated, but not beyond elated. Because we all know what this really means. Yep, it means that she is really going to leave. She is not sure where she will land...still waiting for letters from a few other potential options. But none of these options are in my zip code or even in my state. She is flying the coop. I pray her wings are strong enough for the flight. I believe that they are but I still pray. I am proud of her, happy for her and yet slightly sad and confused. Elated? For her, maybe. For her that she gets to take those beautiful blue eyes and go out and view the world from a different lens--a lens that is more her own--a lens that she will continue to fine tune, adjust and readjust as she becomes a more aware and conscious adult. Will she know a good thing when she sees it? Will she know danger? Will she follow her heart? Or her head?

I will know some of her thoughts, her ideas, her feelings, her fears but certainly a lot fewer of them than I do now. I won't be able to see her eyes every day when she comes home from school and instantly be able to determine if she had a good day or that something is weighing on her. She will get to decide if she wants to tell me--or not. I won't necessarily "just know." The protective layer that I have, or at least think I have with her living in my house, will peel away as she exits. And I don't know what it looks like or feels like to not have that layer in tact. And neither does she.

But once again, I am ahead of myself. The yoga teacher in me says, "Embrace the present. She is still here." The letters arrived and told us she'd been accepted, and she will go, but she is not gone yet. This period of time feels a little bit like a bandaid being pulled off ever so slowly. Ouch! And I don't exactly know what lies beneath the bandaid. My friends and relatives who have older kids who have gone off to college tell me,"It's great. It's like a new chapter and it's cool to develop a more adult to adult type of relationship with your child, which will happen when she leaves." O.k., yes, but I actually really like this chapter. The one in which she lives in my house, and I get to see her and hug her every day. You can't hug via skype or text. Ouch again!

I know, I can kick and scream all I want about this (well, into my pillow maybe), but there's no turning back, she going. And the funny thing is, this is what I wanted, and deep down do want for her. This is when I am supposed to say to myself, "All the hard work paid off. She's going to college! She did it! You did it!" Maybe when that bandaid is completely off and is no longer uncomfortably pulling at the hairs on my skin, I will be able to say that.

I will certainly let you know!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Parking Space 604

I open the envelope and gently pull out parking sticker 604. My mind races and my heart beat quickens. That space is in the senior lot—the lot that is designated for the “old” kids, the kids who are in their last year of high school, are applying to colleges, getting to close to graduation, and then they are…leaving. Parking space 604 is for someone else’s daughter, not mine. Because my daughter couldn’t be that old, she couldn’t be getting ready to leave. They must have sent us the wrong parking sticker. But they didn’t. It was hers. And all that applies to those older kids, now apply to her. But what does that make me? Kind of a mess. 

She was gone most of the summer. She has been gone for a portion of the summer since she was eight when she let me know that she didn’t want to go to a camp that only had a one week session for her age group, she wanted to go to one that had a two week session. “I don’t care if I don’t know anyone there mom. I’m fine with that.” So she went, and she kept going, and going. And now, she is plotting yet another, more permanent exit strategy. Out of my house, out of her room, out from her spot at the dinner table, out from parking spot 604, and already starting to leave a big, huge, gaping hole in my heart. 

We visit colleges. She loves them all! Each one is her favorite. Each one would work for her escape plan. She is not afraid. She craves adventure, new experiences, new people and new surroundings. And yet I see her looking at her 8-year-old sister more lovingly lately, and studying her, as if she is realizing that Jo will grow up without her big sister living in the house, and that they will miss each other—a lot. She hugs her little sister for a little longer. She tells her how much she loves her. I even heard her whispering to her, “You have to tell mom and dad to get you and iphone so we can face time.” Jo tells her that she will. And her brothers, she is more affectionate with them too, and is much more accepting of the things they do that used to send her ranting about how completely annoying they both are. She knows…she will be communicating with them from afar. She understands that things will be different.

Sometimes I feel “stuff” welling up inside of me and I not sure what it is. Sometimes I cry at the end of a yoga class when we are resting silently on our mats with our eyes closed and I have the chance to let go of all that I am trying desperately to hold onto.  I realize that the stuff that I am so carefully guarding within my chest cavity is pain, sadness and fear that arises (but needs to be contained) when I try to wrap my brain and my heart around the fact that my oldest child, my first born, my oldest daughter will soon leave the nest that I have spent 18 years trying to make comfortable, warm and safe for her. She was the guinea pig. She turned me into a mom and provided me with my first stab at being a parent. In so many ways, she has been my teacher. And now, even though they say, you are not supposed to be friends with your child, she is my friend. Yes, I am still her mom, I set the limits, the expectations and all that a good parent is supposed to do, but I can’t help that I really, really like her; that I find her to be one of the funniest people I know; that I love going into her room at night, flopping down on her bed and talking with her and listening to her—about anything. I like that she is smart and interesting and fun to be around. I like that she is honest, in a no b.s. kind of way, like when she tells me that my hair looks crazy or it’s time to color the grays, or that my shoes are not right for my outfit.  She tells me that I take too long to edit her papers and that I am taking way too long to write my book. But she also cheers me on and is supportive of my dreams. She is real, she is kind, she is passionate—the best kind of friend any person would want; how could she NOT be my friend?

Her exit strategy is working. She is going to be accepted to some of the colleges she applied to and she will pick one, and then...no matter how many tears I shed, she is going to hit the road. Her parking spot in the senior lot will be taken over next year by another child whose mom cannot quite place where the 18 years have gone. And I will move through this transition…somehow, just like all the courageous moms who have raised wonderful children and then set them free. And for the time being I will try and rejoice that her parking sticker says 604; that she is still parking in the big kid lot at the school where my other kids attend. I will continue to smile and exhale when I hear her car pull in our driveway and when she barrels in through the door usually yelling something that I don’t understand.  

Her presence is big in our house and in my heart and I intend to fully cherish it, even after her “operation exit home” is successful.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

May Madness and the Aftermath

I do understand that the NCAA coined the term March Madness for the flurry of college basketball games played throughout the month, however, I do not think this kind of madness holds a candle to the madness that most mothers feel in May. For one thing, if you have any campers, the stacks of camp forms (which include having up-to- date physicals) are due. Spring sports are in full swing and this year, between my two boys (one of whom was rostered on four baseball teams, yep four) we were at a field, sometimes two, almost every night of the week and on weekends. My youngest daughter plays soccer and because they weren’t going to be able to have a team for her and her buddies if no one stepped up to coach…well, sure, I will figure out how to make it work. And I know so much about soccer! Not…never played a day in my life.  And it is only two nights a week. What?! Not really sure how these logistics are going to work.  And then if you happen to have high-schoolers like I do, it is finals prep time (and in my house, finals freak-out time), and if you happen to have a junior (soon to be a senior) like I do, let’s throw in the SAT or ACT tests this month as well!  

Then there is a sprint for the finish at our kids’ school with events that I had never even heard of until enrolling my kids at this school: portfolio day, field day, staff appreciation day, 4th grade graduation, closing ceremonies for lower school, middle school and upper school (all on different days), baccalaureate (where the first graders—yep, I have one of those too—sing to the outgoing seniors). And, my daughter’s birthday party was also in the month of May, as well as my mother's 70th birthday. And oh, that Mother's Day in May idea...yeah...sure.

In addition to the above-mentioned mayhem, which made my head and heart spin on a very regular basis, this May was especially heart- wrenching for my family. My beloved father-in-law, who fought a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer for 4 ½ years, passed away on May 12th (his 77th birthday). It was a devastating blow to our family and the community who came out in droves and supported us with love and kindness.

The madness of May, however, did not allow much time for the necessary process of grieving.  We took time to honor my father-in-law with a beautiful funeral and a three-day shivah (time of mourning when friends and family gather to support the family of the deceased).  But before any of us were ready, the kids had to take their finals, return to their sports, my husband had to return to work, and we all had to return to the plethora of other events sprawled all over the calendar.  And I had to continue to guide the ship, and keep everyone moving in the right direction, which at this point was getting through the end of the school year, trying to keep their spirits up but also supporting them in their grief. I had to help them study for their finals and finish their final projects. And then I had to be there for my husband, who seemed to be in a state of shock and needed the space and time to digest all of this.  And quite honestly, there were days that I didn't think I could do it all; days that I wanted to run for the hills!

I felt consumed by grief, my own and everyone’s around me, and in making sure that everyone else was okay. This is when I knew I needed to, in addition to taking care of them and their needs, I needed to find a way to take care of myself.  I went back to teaching the high energy yoga sculpt classes that I love and to writing the parenting book that has been my passion for the last two years.  Back in January, I sent a few query letters to agents to see if they would be interested in helping me get the book published but had not heard anything from any of them. Less than a week after my father-in-law died, I vented to one of my girlfriends about my feelings of self-doubt and frustrations with the book and the publishing process.  I hung up from her and opened my email and in my in-box was a letter from one of the agents saying she was interested in my work and would I send her some chapters and a full outline.  My eyes filled with tears and I felt an immediate connection to my father-in-law, who was a real go-getter, and wasn’t much for taking no for an answer. I saw him working some magic from up above.

We all got through the next few weeks and found our way to the end of the school year. My kids did fine on their finals, they contributed on their sports teams, and we managed to find time to talk about Papa and how we will miss him.  The last day full of school was Friday, June 1st   and I felt a certain lightness as May had turned into June--summer was here and we would all have a little break from the madness.  But this lightness did not last long.  Five of my son’s friends came home with him from school that day. They were all playing wiffle ball in the back yard and I asked them if they wanted to go to the pool.  Some said yes, and some said no. They took a vote. Going to the pool won. The boys, my youngest daughter and I all piled in my car and drove over to the country club where each one of my kids learned to swim.  They played basketball and swam. We had been there for about an hour and I was talking to a friend when I heard a whistle blow three times. Kids scurried out of the pool. My heart stopped as I watched a lifeguard pull out, what looked to me like a lifeless little body, from the pool.  A boy, 6 years old, a kindergartener at my kids' school, attending a birthday party. The rest of the details still haunt me, and writing them down is just too painful. But when I settled into my car with my group of kids, we prayed. We prayed for Nicolas. We prayed for a miracle. But not long after we left, we sadly found out  that Nicolas was dead.

Witnessing the two deaths, one of a loved of and the other, a horrible, tragic death of a child, my heart exploded into a zillion pieces and I have been working on putting it back together since. My kids fill me up with so much love and joy, my husband is slowly smiling a bit more, and thank g-d for my amazing family and friends.  Not long after the pool event, we took an Alaskan cruise with my side of the family, during which ironically it was rainy, windy and cold for 90 percent of time.   Then, we sent our teenagers off to their amazing camps, and my sister and I planned and pulled off a surprise 50th wedding anniversary for our parents.  As for the book, I did manage to send the proposal off to the agent for her review. It may take another five months to hear back from her (as it did the first time), but I will keep writing.

It is mid-July now, and I am trying to take it one day at a time. The days and nights are calmer; the pace is slower, and a lot less frantic. I am ever so grateful for this time to think, to write, to teach, to grieve and to let go.  Grateful that I don’t have to rush off to work every day no matter what is going on, as so many moms do. Sometimes in the midst of those ever-so chaotic times when the world is moving faster than you feel like you can grasp, when life seems to throw you curve balls that you are not able to dodge, I would say that as a mother, it can be very tricky.  As you deal with your own pain and fear, you must deal with your children’s as well. And each child processes life’s curve balls differently, and they don't really tell you what their process is, because most likely they don't know. Some like to talk about how they feel, some internalize, some move to anger, and others want to pretend that everything is fine. As a mother, it can be downright excruciating to try to help navigate your child through their process of grief, as we are not even always sure how to direct ourselves. But in the spirit of yoga, my advice would be to stay present, be honest with your feelings, take time to heal, and believe in your heart of hearts, and share with your children, that “this too shall pass.” Life can be complicated, scary and often does not make a whole lot of sense, but hang onto those you love, and somehow, some way, your world will come back into focus even though it may look and feel slightly or significantly different.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Days are Long But the Years are Short

There are those pivotal moments when you see your child transform before your eyes. You realize that every ounce of energy that you have put into raising this child--all the time you spent worrying, all the pep talks you've given, all the times you've listened and advised, or just listened...and all the times you've yelled (you didn't mean to be yelling but you had to make sure she could hear you!)--worked. She is grown up, she is 17, she is beautiful, she is her own person. Her own person who has succeeded beyond your expectations and who has fallen flat on her face...and gotten back up, again and again. You have been there, you have guided her, you have loved her, you have mothered her through all of it.

And here she stands, my height, with a maturity beyond anything that I was even close to having at 17...well beyond.  I love her more than words can say. I am in awe of her person--the person who she has become, independent of me. I love what she brings to this world and to my heart.  I love how she makes me laugh, how she lights up a room, how she talks too loud and chomps her food. I even love that she still throws tantrums (I taught her well!) I love it all.

Talk of the upcoming summer that she will spend away at camp, talk of her being a senior, of her LAST year at home, with me, with us, and talk of her going away to college swirls around me. It is all talk right now. Because to internalize it makes my heart ache too much, and creates a lump in my throat. I know how fast a year goes. I know how fast 17 years has gone. She cried a lot when she was a baby. She bit other kids and she was bossy as a toddler.  She drove me insane as an adolescent, and still continues to keep my hair colorist in business with all the grays she has given me as a teenager. But she has always and continues to amaze me with her intelligence, her wit and her zest for life. She has taught me how to live fully and to laugh a whole lot more.

As I work on the book that I am writing for moms about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I spend hours reading mothers' accounts of what their joys and challenges have been/are with their children, their spouses and within themselves. It causes me to do a tremendous amount of reflecting on my children's lives and of my transformation as a mother. I am not able to fully articulate how quickly the time goes. When you are in the throws of whatever you are in with your children, it seems like time stands still. And in a way it does. You are in a bubble, the child-rearing bubble. I remember wanting those days to go by a little faster and yearned for more time to myself.  But as you start to see your way out of that bubble, it is a little bit scary, and you realize that although there are many challenges within the bubble, it is where you have spent your time with your child. There is comfort there, and popping that bubble is not as easy as it may seem.

I looked over at my daughter's eyes in the kitchen yesterday. She looked different.  She had the seriousness in her eyes that only adults have. But thankfully, her serious, focussed, beautiful blue eyes had a sparkle, not a little girl sparkle but a sparkle that is timeless and ageless--a sparkle that I hope she will never lose. Maybe she has had this look in her eyes for a while and I just didn't notice. Maybe I didn't want to notice. Maybe I don't want her to be grown up...and to leave. But I do. But I don't. But I....It is not up to me. She has grown up. She will leave. But...not quite yet!  Thank goodness we have another year!