Sunday, January 27, 2013

When "happily ever after" involves a burrito and sitting in the parking lot of a movie theater

Steve is in the thick of his "busy season" at work.  It's an official period that spans a couple months, and I pretty much plan on not seeing him hardly at all.  7 days a week of work.  Home around 1AM some nights.  I'm excited if he texts and says he might be home by 10pm.

I have nothing to whine about for all of this.  Really and truly, it's okay.  We knew what to expect going into a Big 4 accounting job, there's an end in sight, he gets 5 weeks off during spring and summer, etc etc.

I also see it as the time to do things that are trickier with him around, like bury my nose in a book for hours at night.  Or watch chick-flicks that I save for nights he works late.  As Netflix calls my movies: "cerebral romantic dramas." Steve is willing to watch them, but doesn't love them.

But when an unexpected weekend off came for him this weekend (some project stage was complete), the kids and I were FREAKING OUT with joy.  We've missed him.  I planned a date night last night, and we were going to do something crazy-fun.  We had no idea what that really meant -- and even as I was curling my hair, we were still discussing what would be crazy-fun.  We didn't want to see friends; we just wanted to be together.

Here, people, is what we finally ended up doing on our time together:

- Went to the gas station to get fuel and buy Kleenex.
- Went to Target to buy a space-heater for Victoria's room.
- Stopped at DSW, to see if they had shoes I needed.
- Burlington Coat Factory, to show him the oddly-trashy-and-extensive lingerie section I found there. Burlington COAT Factory?  Selling French-maid teddies for $9?  He had to see it to believe it.
- Drove around a bit, deciding if we should go into the city and get cocktails and dessert somewhere fancy.
-Stopped at a Redbox to get "Frankenweenie" for the kids to watch this morning, hoping we'd get to sleep a few extra hours.
- Debated looking up movies on Fandango, and catching a late movie.  Les Mis?


- We bought burritos at Chipotle, just as they were closing at 10.  Drove to the movie theater parking lot. And sat there eating burritos and talking for several hours.

Had my 18-24 year old self read this, I would have cringed to think that some day, I'd be So Married that we wouldn't be able to think of something crazy-fun to do with each other.  Sitting in the front seat of my Sienna with my partner of 16 years, eating burritos in my fancy "date night" shirt and tight jeans...well, isn't that in some ways the ultimate defeat of romanticism?

But the laughing!  Sitting there, eating my burrito with Steve, honestly ranks as one of the greatest nights I have ever had.  We talked about memories, shook our heads in wonder at these three little people we made together, talked about getting old, and pretty much everything in between.  There were about 97 different ways we talked about HOW GRATEFUL we are that we found each other. How absolutely lovely these years have been together, and how efficient to bundle our best friend into our spouse.

On one level, we can definitely do better on our date-night planning.  A real restaurant or something.  But then again, maybe not.  Maybe we should just embrace that the mere presence of each other really can be enough?

Last night, I talked about how "happily ever after" was such a misunderstood phrase.  Picture Cinderella and Prince Charming in 10 years, and no one would swoon if they saw them sitting in their Sienna's front seat eating $6 burritos on date night.  But if they knew the deeper layers of it, the warmth and contentedness and security behind those moments, then maybe it would seem like the fairy-tale moment.

It did to me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy 6th Birthday, Andrew

Andrew, sweet boy.  You are now six years old.

I used to mourn the loss of the littleness, a bit every birthday.  And I can still feel that catch of nostalgia sometimes, when I look back on pictures of the tiniest versions of you.  As your dad says: “Can you believe that little baby Andrew is gone forever?”  But here’s the thing I didn’t fully understand before:  It keeps getting so much better.  YOU keep getting so much better. 

When I mourn the loss of miniature noses and tiny hands, I also know I’d have to give away this grander version of you to get those moments back.  The wise, kind, little boy who is struggling so hard to become a grown-man.  The lovely conversations, the soulful questions.  Or the time you asked my dad a series of questions about God’s existence and the afterlife, and then followed-up in the same cadence: “What’s your favorite kind of cupcake?”  As though philosophy and food were cut from the same cloth.  And maybe they are, now that I think about it.

It isn’t easy being you, Andrew.  I wish I could fully articulate to you how much I understand that.  In some ways, it might be a lifelong struggle to pair up who you are meant to be – the full-color, passionate version of yourself – with the framework that usually exists in the world. Those electrical impulses that course through you, Andrew?  I know what they feel like.  I know what it’s like to look around the world and see too much quiet – too much calm—and have a primal need to shake confetti over everything and blare some music.

I spend long periods of time thinking about how to be the best mother to you.  How to cherish and adore the complex wonder of you, and guide you down a path to adulthood.  Dad and I lie awake at night, talking about how to be the parents you deserve.  It is music lessons you need? More sports?  Move to a farm?  

The balance between harnessing and nurturing passion run so counter to each other sometimes, it makes my heart ache.  It leads me to buy books like “Your Six Year Old” and dive into it, hoping for some insight about how to be better at this thing.  When I tell you it’s a book about how to best be a mom to a 6-year-old, you say with Occam’s Razor: “Give lots of hugs.”

In our tough moments, when my Mothering-side and my Human-side are in disconnect, and I’ve lost my patience with you for the fourth (or tenth) time that day…even then, I still get it.  A few minutes will pass, and I’ll scoop up your tiny-man-self into my arms and tell you stories about times when I was little and my parents were frustrated with me.  I lost things. Broke things.  Or maybe I had Big Emotions at an inconvenient time to have them. 

Here is what I want you to know about yourself, Andrew:  Those big emotions that you have?  They are there for a reason.  You are supposed to have them.  They will take you to some of the most beautiful life summits, with the most beautiful views, in ways that a calmer soul might skip over.   You will lift up rocks that others pass by.  Peer behind curtains that maybe you’re not technically supposed to look behind…but god, it was worth it to see something magical on the other side.  You will ask questions and see answers that no other human might have considered. 

I am deeply grateful for that part of you.  The Bigness in your heart. You love human beings in a way I’ve never seen anyone love before – with absolutely purity and depth and rawness. It emanates through your hugs, the way you melt into my lap and say, “I love you so much, Mommy.”  And in those moments, I have NO IDEA how we can ever disconnect from each other. 

I want to teach you how to live big and feel big and BE big and how to tear down walls to make your life-space exactly what it needs. 

I am on your team, kid.  We are going to do this.  We are going to carry your million-watt spirit down the winding road to being a grown-man, together. I will screw up so many times.  Lose my patience…my sense of the bigger picture…I will get annoyed at the little things…I will misunderstand your intentions.  And I will apologize SO MANY TIMES, you can’t even imagine.  But at the end of the day, I am committed to this.  To raising you, to nurturing your spirit, in a way that honors this gift that was handed to me. 

Maybe it is true that we choose our family.  Maybe you looked down and decided that this chaotic-souled mama would have some travel notes to share with you.  And indeed, I do.  We’ll figure this out together, okay?  I'll tell you some of my secrets, and you'll make some of your own.

To my awe-inspiring and wonderful and oh-so-loving son, on his 6th birthday.  Thanks for being my boy.