How did this happen? The holidays are upon us, and it is scary how fast time has gone. My older one is taller than I am and sporting a faint mustache. The younger one is a beanpole, who is shooting up tall, takes the subway by himself, and plans his own meals. It is a new world, in which I have absolutely no clue how to act.
We fought during Thanksgiving weekend about silly things, like how they stayed in bed too long and delayed our trip to the Museum of Modern Art and how they wore jeans and sweatpants when I wanted them to wear nicer clothes. These things seemed, at the moment, monumental. How can they get anywhere in life if they don’t get up and out of bed? How is it that I have not taught them the importance of dressing up sometimes, how they need to know how to look the part?
God. The worst thing about the things that make me angry is that I usually have only myself to blame. I’ve wanted my kids to be able to sleep in and relax, not rush around like these crazy New Yorkers around us. And I’ve bought them barely anything but sweatpants and sports paraphernalia that they love. It is comfy, after all, and isn’t that the most important thing?
Part of the reason I stopped making them go to Temple was the anxiety over what to wear, pathetic as that sounds. It just didn’t seem important.
When I yell at my kids, I am usually really angry at myself. What’s wrong with me that I haven’t pushed the kids more, like to be up and out early, running in the park? When we passed a family running together as we walked the dog and our kids slumbered, my eyes got big and my husband looked at me.
“Stop!” he said. He knew what I was thinking: that should be us, up and running together, instead of the kids laying there like lumps until 10 or 11, then playing video games for hours.
“Should.” It is a word I try to avoid but one I come up against constantly, especially around the holidays. Here I am, living out my fantasy life in New York City.
I dreamed of this when I was a kid watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television in Arizona. That could be me there in that Big City, waving at the camera with my kids, all bundled up, watching the big blow-up balloons, and the stars of Broadway. Now, though, when we could trek over there, we don’t. We don’t even really watch it on television.
The reality of life and what I often imagine it should be smacks me hard in the face as my kids grow more and more independent and we try to figure how to get along and what we want to do in our time together. If I am the Yelling Shrew, are they really going to want to be anywhere near me as they get older? Luckily, I’ve been given some dispensation by Oscar who, at 12, often understands things I forget.
“You have to yell at me, mom, otherwise I probably wouldn’t do a lot of things,” he said.
He does the laundry, folds it, and puts it away. He gets all his homework done and gets excellent grades, not necessarily because I’ve yelled, but certainly in part because of my expectations.
When I think of the things he and his brother do, versus what they don’t do, I am in better shape.
Certainly, there is no absolute right and wrong about how to handle life, no tribunal in our free society who decides whether suits and ties are better than sweats and T-shirts.
There is only our way, as a family, and that’s the part we need to reconcile.