Being a Mom, seriously!

While growing up in my early teen years my mother used to frequently tell me, “Tami, you take things too seriously!” I’d offer my huffy response, “Well I AM serious!” Growing up was serious business – seriously. Nowadays I still hold onto a frank perspective on life, but I also really appreciate a daily dose of levity, especially when it comes to raising kids.

I like the funnies passed around Facebook that remind me to keep motherhood human — and myself humane in the process. What does it mean to keep motherhood human, you ask? Well, I can give you a long, serious answer, but I’d rather use one of those eCard quotes: “All those moms are on Pinterest making their own soap and reindeer-shaped treats, and I’m all like ‘I took a shower and kept the kids alive’.” So far, thank God, I’ve kept the kids alive, and I’ve also managed to avoid having to cook, bake or craft anything absurdly intricate to keep me in good standing amongst the Highlands Mother ‘hood. (Wait, maybe I’m not in good standing…)

To me, keeping motherhood human means not setting galactic-proportioned expectations for myself as a mother, nor for my children. It means keeping things in perspective. It means laughing at myself every day. That’s not actually easy when surrounded by Super Moms of the Highlands.Mothering

If I gave the Highlands parenting trends a cursory peek on Facebook I’d think that all our resident minors are vegan athletes who have gigs booked at Carnegie Hall following their televised neuroscience presentation on TED Talks. There are a lot of smart kids, talented kids, healthy kids and clever kids living in the Highlands. However, it is also common knowledge that what you see on Facebook is a polished and airbrushed version of reality. There’s no doubt that talent runs thick in the ‘hood, but this isn’t Stepford either, so I have to remind myself that not everything I see is perfection. The bumper sticker, “My Chihuahua is smarter than your Honor Student” helps me keep this whole job in perspective.

Do I have any advice about keeping up with the Mama Joneses in the Highlands? Just do your own thing. If you think for one minute that the tooth fairy has to deliver a fairy-dust sprinkled, hand-written in calligraphy note under your child’s pillow with $5 for their lost tooth, you’re losing perspective. If you refuse to build a leprechaun trap, you’re absolved of that inadequacy. If your child’s basketball game socks don’t match, chalk it up to a new fashion statement.  On those days when you’re feeling less-than-exemplary as a mother it’s okay to get catty and mumble that eCard to yourself: “Your excessive status updates proclaiming how much you love your kids, has me wondering what you’re hiding.” Okay, let’s stow that sulkiness away and get back to keeping this motherhood train forward, not derailed in Grumpy Land.

If we don’t embrace the humorous side of our job as mothers, then we’re doing what my mother always accused me of: “taking things too seriously”. It is a funny job. There’s an eCard that says “Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.” Some of us went to college, had careers, then took a right turn and now dedicate ourselves to Project Management of the Homework Turn-in Process with meetings called to discuss timeliness and accuracy of content submitted to higher-ups (aka, “teachers”). We also head up the Department of Good Choices and Navigational Strategies on Social Interactions with Peers (aka, “How to keep your stuff off the internet”). As an adjunct we offer professional-level coaching on a class called “Asserting Oneself to Authority Figures While Remaining a Receptive Subordinate” (aka, “How to beg forgiveness from your teachers for turning in late assignments”).

In order to function in this seriously funny job of motherhood I feel we must balance our agenda of raising Carnegie-bound, scientific breakthrough-making, NFL qualifying Earth-a-tarians, with a not-so-serious attitude. Otherwise, we might get bogged down in insisting upon hand making historically accurate 1800’s Valentine vignettes for every student in the 5th grade class, and losing our minds and perspective in the process.

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Highlands Mother ‘Hood

Mother’s Day isn’t just a time to reflect on the growth and maturity of my sons, (and perhaps indulge in some spa pampering), but also an opportunity to direct my attention outwardly to acknowledge those neighborhood moms who have helped me in my own journey as a mother. I won’t bore you with philosophies on childrearing, education or moral upbringing, nor will I wax nostalgic about the baby days of velvety hair and silky cheeks. My fumbling and bumbling at this motherhood deal continues – thirteen years and running – but my head’s still above water many thanks to the Highlands Mother ‘Hood.

A few years ago I was helping a friend deliver an art lesson to a 5th-grade class at Grand Ridge. While washing the paint off our hands she asks, “How early do you think we have to get here tonight?”

I smear violet off the brush. “To put the paints away? Tonight??” I answer, clearly not on the same planet.

“No, Tami,” she responds patiently with only a nuance of an eye-roll, “for the 5th grade play. You know, parking is tight and all the tripod toting parents get here at least 45 minutes in advance.”

“Oh, Jack’s not in the drama club” still hovering outside Mars, but getting warmer.Pirate Jack

“No, not the drama club that meets after school. You know,” she splutters with borderline desperation, “the entire 5th grade’s production of Treasure Island! They’ve been working on for half the year during choir and before school!”

“The ENTIRE 5th grade?! Jack’s in a play? Tonight?!” Entering the atmosphere of this planet is an unpleasant experience. “Why didn’t Jack tell me he’s in a play!?” I know the answer though, before the question leaves my mouth. He’s an 11-year-old boy who would rather pour a cup of lemon juice in his eyeballs than go onstage in front of an audience and sing, or even talk.

Thanks to the Highlands Mother ‘Hood, that bountiful network of friends who are on the ball, I am able to throw together a costume for Jack that resembles Captain Jack Sparrow, but is assembled with the speed of Edward Scissorshands…(thank you, Johnny Depp!)

I breathe gratitude for weeks after the play relieved by the heads-up about one of the many landmark events other parents are well aware of months in advance. My fellow moms read the classroom newsletters and pay close attention to the notices that say, “Please prepare your child with an eye patch and a peg leg for next month’s pirate play.” As the not-so-tuned-in-mom I skim the newsletters while wearing said eye patch, balanced on a peg leg, totally caught up in the presumption that my son would never be caught dead on stage, never mind that it is a compulsory 5th grade right of passage performance.

A month later the Highlands Mother ‘Hood helped me stay properly in orbit when a friend asked, “Are you going to sign up as a chaperone for Camp Colman?”

“Why does Mr. Coleman need chaperones? Doesn’t he run his activities in the gym?” It was firmly planted in my brain the Mr. Coleman, then the P.E. teacher at Grand Ridge, conducted various before-school activities for the kids, and that “Camp Colman” must certainly be this month’s fun theme.

(Cue big sigh. Send out the intergalactic retrieval hook.) “No, Tami. Not Mr. Coleman. CAMP COLMAN, the three-day, two-night 5th grade camp…oh, dear…you thought it involved P.E.?”

“I, uh, thought all those fundraisers were for new P.E. equipment or something. Oops. So, you think I’m capable of chaperoning a zillion 11-year-olds for over 60 hours? I seem to have a track record of parenting milestone near-misses.”

She responds with a reassuring smile, “You’ll do fine. The other moms will tell you what you’re supposed to do.”

Sure enough, I did fine. Thank you, Highlands Mother ‘Hood!