Thursday, March 17, 2011

Laundry, Mars and Apology Calls...

Hoping your life isn’t as tumultuous as the weather has been lately! Seems like you never know what to wear on any given day, as you need a winter coat on as you get the ice or rain off your car in the morning and by late afternoon all those same windows are open wide! But I guess March is notorious for that, and my laundry seems to be a mixture of turtlenecks and shorts!

And speaking of laundry and the difference between men and women (yes, you can draw that kind of analogy on just about any subject!), the other day, my husband Troy “helped” me by putting the laundry away. Notice the parenthesis around help, not meant as mean sarcasm, as I do appreciate any help in that daily ritual, but as a great example of the different things that girls and boys, who then grow up to be men and women, focus on. For example, days later, as I opened up different drawers, I found that he had put most of Luke’s clothing in Evan’s drawer, Evan’s pants were hung on Luke’s side, my socks were in a drawer I hadn’t used in a year, and Nikki’s clothes, while in the right general area of her 2-drawer section, pajamas were all mixed up with what I consider her “daily wear”.

Now I know I can be a little, shall we say “picky”, about how things are placed around the house, but what cracked me up was that he sees our children everyday, just like me, and looks at them with clothes on (at least Evan, Luke and Nikki are marginal in that area when they’re home!) and even helps them get dressed every morning, so by default, gets the clothes out of these same areas that he totally mixed up when he put things away… So how did he not know where they all belonged? (Or was he subconsciously hoping I wouldn’t ask him for help anymore!)

Now Nikki, on the other hand, being a 7-year-old girl, knows exactly who wears what and which drawer or closet side belongs to who. And if Luke happens to put on a shirt that belongs to Evan, she calls him on it every time! She can also tell if I’m going to work or staying home based on the clothes I put on in the morning! In fact, yesterday when I decided to “shake things up” a little with my weekend wear, even though I was staying home, she laughed when she saw me and said “mom, that’s your work shirt!“ She was right, of course, I had never worn it on Sunday! And unlike my loving husband, she knows immediately if I’m wearing something new and tells me how “cute” it is!

So where am I going with all this? Well, I guess this is just my version of “men are from mars, women from venus” as I continue my daily efforts towards understanding as a mother of two boys and a girl and as the wife of a man who was once a little boy! Because starting as little boys, despite their outward physical focus and relationship with the world, they often hardly notice or take in what’s going on around them other than what important task they are focused on. Indeed, I‘ve decided to only tell Troy important names, dates or events right before they happen, since expecting him to remember a week later seems to be a futile and frustrating effort! So in all fairness, why would he know that Nikki’s sweatpants go in a different drawer than her shirts?

I’ll end this with a story about a bunch of 40-something girlfriends who went out to dinner and drinks and got into a very “lively” discussion about religion and evolution. You know the kind you had in college before you had ever changed a diaper… Well by the end of the evening, strong opinions had been given and humorous accusations made of being feminist, waspish or a non-believer. We all knew we were having fun, but the next morning, numerous phone calls were made to each other apologizing to make sure no feelings were hurt. We all laughed at these “apology calls“, as we knew that a bunch of guys going out and having a lively discussion of their own (probably about sports!) would never make the “apology calls” and would not give another guilty thought to who called who what name for fun! And now I know why, they probably wouldn’t even care or remember what was said!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Unbearable Nearsightedness of Being... Middle-Aged

Being in your forties certainly has its advantages, doesn't it? For instance, if you are motivated enough to play on any middle-aged sports team, as many of my friends do, you know that just about any middle-aged injury resulting from that great shot on goal blocked by an aggressive, younger defender, including your own child, will earn you at least one month of much-needed, middle-aged rest after you undergo extensive surgery for the wrist, ankle or knee you landed on and broke apart!

In fact, I learned this lesson several years ago when I played an exciting game of mom's kickball and as the star pitcher for my team made an amazing catch of a huge, bouncy rubber ball that landed me right on my non-bouncy, non-rubber bottom and kept me in serious pain for several weeks! 

And while being bed-ridden should in theory get you out of a lot of household chores, you know as well as I do that watching your spouse or having your spouse watch you immobile on the couch while family life forges on around you gets old pretty fast; two days tops before irritation sets in, right?

So these days, I purposefully stay away from any and all requests from my ever-enthusiastic middle-aged, mom friends (you know who you are!) to join their self-named "old lady" sports teams because I now realize that attempting to play any competitive sport in your forties seems to inspire that dangerous combination of the amnesia of your much more youthful, athletically light, agile, competitive brain taking control over your often heavier and well-worn, 40-something year-old body that just doesn't seem to bounce or recover the way it used to.

In fact, I've often thought it would be much more useful for this same youthful part of my brain to make an appearance and take over not when I'm trying to score a goal against my 11-year old son but instead, when I open the wrong drawer in my kitchen for the 500th time looking for a tupperware lid and end up amazed for the 500th time that they are under, not over, the dish towel drawer (what is that mental block?!) Or how about when I'm trying to recall someone’s name I’ve known for years as they walk up to me at the schoolyard and I become embarrassingly panic-stricken hoping I don't have to introduce them to anyone? Or even when I forget, like I did last Sunday, that I have a sandwich in the oven for my daughter until an half hour later when it is as crisp as a rock (of course, she refused to eat it, so I did).  

So what exactly are the advantages of being middle-aged? Well, I asked myself the same question the other day when I had to fight the urge to ask the 20-year old Sephora girl with fresh, dewy, wrinkle-free skin "Do you think I'm pretty?" the way my best friend and I used to ask each other as we battled with boys and acne and our teenage angst. You see, now that I have to wear magnifying reader glasses over my contacts to put on the makeup guaranteed by that same dewy, Sephora girl to successfully cover up my now middle-aged acne as well as everything else, I wonder if I've also lost sight of the joyfulness that being more mature is supposed to bring.

But then it came to me the other day; Nikki had her CD player on in her room and the CD was a “Barbie” remake of some fun dance songs. She had already gone downstairs and I had to get something from her room, and the song playing took me back to my own days as a fresh, wrinkle-free, young girl. Surrounded by girlish pink and stuffed animals and clothes all over the floor, I reminisced about a time when hanging out with your friends and talking about what boy you liked or liked you were the most important things in the world.

And I forgot, for a moment, as I danced around her room to the tune, (c’mon, I know you’ve done this, too!) all the worries of sickness, remodeling, bills, mommy guilt or loss of my own fresh and agile youthfulness. And thanks to that middle-aged nearsightedness, as I caught a glimpse of myself in her mirror, I didn’t see the extra weight, gray hair, wrinkles or menopausal acne. Just me, young again. And for those moments, I felt very light and happy…

So perhaps it is with this same nearsighted look in the mirror that we should all go forward and not mourn our fading looks, what bones we have broken, ligaments we have torn, or the fact that we can't remember what drawer the damn Tupperware lids are in! But instead, we should take pride in our family, our many accomplishments and enjoy the wiser and calmer confidence and empathy we have gained through the years, despite the wrinkles earned along the way.

And remember that even if you can't throw a softball anymore without throwing out your shoulder, it’s still okay to dance around the room sometimes, remembering much simpler, lighter and bouncier times. Just take off those glasses and stay far enough away from the mirrors!