Monday, September 24, 2012

The Quest For Banana Coffeecake

We had to get up early to get the replacement retainer fitted because he had lost the last one so long ago and had either forgotten to tell me or been too afraid to tell me and we were both in denial about it.   Now he needed to be fitted with a replacement retainer because it had been months since he had actually worn it and his teeth were slipping.  You might want to console me and say it's not my fault, but it is.  Everything is my fault.  Not a pity party.  Just stating facts.

I drag him out of bed at the usual time ("But Mom, it's a late day!") to get the new retainer fitted.  I have to miss work to do stuff like this.  Before, I could always just drop everything and make it happen.    But now I have to take half-days off and miss meetings and deadlines and let my work-team down because my family-team's needs come first.  I resent them for needing me.  And then I feel guilty for resenting them.

We slam our doors shut and I start the car.  He looks at me sideways with a sleepy eyeroll.  I can tell he hasn't bathed or changed his clothes, but I don't say anything.  I'm a horrible mom.   But not always.  Sometimes I'm a mean mom.  Sometimes I insist on chores and homework and personal hygiene.  A mean mom and a good parent.  Sometimes I'm a nice mom and a horrible parent.  Really what I am is a tired mom who is kind of nice and kind of mean and kind of horrible and kind of not.

We get to the orthodontist. The Gamer signs in at the little desk and waits on the bench to be called.  I sit down in the waiting room, mentally slapping my forehead, as I always do, that I didn't bring something to do with me while I wait.  Nothing to do but flip through the ridiculous magazines, which I loathe, except classy ones like The Atlantic and Harpers.  Sitting with nothing to do makes me feel antsy and wasteful.  I should relish this kind of moment, but I never do.  I resolve to sit quietly and try to empty my mind.  Pffft.

The ortho comes out and says that they took the molds for the retainer but it won't be ready right away. Can we come back tomorrow and pick it up?  They don't seem to understand that I'm working now.  I can't just show up whenever the way I used to do.  No.  I took the morning off so let's do this thing.  Fine.  Come back in an hour and it will be ready.

Yes!  Mental fist pump.  I turn to The Gamer.  Just enough time to go out to breakfast.  We head to the car.

"Have you ever been to Mitch's Cafe?"  I say.  "No? You've never had the banana coffeecake?  Let's go remedy that right now."   I look at my watch.  Mitch's is all the way across town.   If we are efficient, we can get breakfast, return for the retainer and then get to school before the late day beginning bell at 9:30.  Challenge accepted.

But snags began conspiring against us.  I get stuck on a narrow street behind a garbage truck that wouldn't yield for several blocks.  I miss three lights in a row that were supposed to be timed together.  I forget where the turn for Mitch's was and have to double back, missing another light.  And so on.  Finally, one last light stands between us and the restaurant.  At the train tracks.  Dun dun.  Dun dun.  Did that sound like Law and Order?

The light turns yellow just as we approach it and then the clanging starts and the red lights flash and the gates start coming down to prevent dumbshits from getting stuck on the tracks and having to be rescued by Hancock which was a stupid movie but it's always fun to see Will Smith.

And guess what?  Little Miss Goodytwoshoes who won't allow herself to break the rules no matter how ridiculous because I. Always. Get. Caught. Always. pushes the pedal to the floor and races across the train tracks and crosses the double yellow line to slide into Mitch's Cafe's parking lot.  And immediately hear the siren of the cop car that was OF COURSE parked there lying in wait for dumb fucks like me to fuck up because they are TRYING to have a nice moment with their son who they have really not been there for because they started back to work just as seventh grade was beginning and without warning the kid had to suck it up and deal with life for himself so for the love of god could I just please take him to breakfast to have delicious banana coffeecake before we have to go back to retainers and school and work and just everything PLEASE?

Blinking back tears (surprise!), I roll down the window and wait for the officer to make his way up to our car.  I get the necessary papers together.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see The Gamer mentally rubbing his hands together with a sly smile on his face.   Even as the adrenaline-soaked thoughts tumble through my brain (I think I can do traffic school when's the last time I did that now show The Gamer how it's done if there's any chance I'll just get a warning no one ever just gets a warning only in the movies), I see him predicting what is going to happen next.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"  The officer peers into the car, sizing up what kind of reckless scofflaws he might be dealing with.  "Yes, I do, officer."  I take a deep breath.  "I sped up through the intersection at the train tracks which I have never done in the twenty years I have lived in this town because it is horribly dangerous but I'm taking my son to breakfast because we are waiting for his retainer to be made from the molds they took at the orthodontist's so that I can get him to school before the late day bell at 9:30."  I figure I'd better cover all the bases.  The right to remain silent be damned.  I have never invoked my right to remain silent in my almost half-century on the planet and I wasn't about to start now.

The officer stands back. "Surprised" is probably too strong a word.  "Non-plussed," maybe?  "License and registration," he growls.  I hand them over like the dutiful child I become in situations like this.  "I think you know what you did was not only illegal but dangerous.   I appreciate that you told me so right away.  It shows that you know you made a dumb mistake and you are pretty unlikely ever to do it again."  I am amazed at what it is beginning to sound like here. "I'm going to let you off with a warning."  (LET ME OFF WITH A WARNING DID YOU HEAR THAT THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING I scream inside my head).

"Thank you, officer," I hear my self saying in a calm and business-like manner.  "I really appreciate you not giving me a ticket.  I promise it will never happen again.  A stupid mistake and I really won't ever try that again."  I can practically *hear* my son's eyes rolling around in his head but I don't look at him, I won't look at him, not until the officer is gone and we are finally safe.

"Well," I finally say to him. "I think we have just had what is known as a 'teachable moment.'  What do you think the point was of what just happened?"

"That you can break the rules and get away with it," he says.

(Terrific, I think. Fantastic.)

"Well, I think the point was that the authorities look favorably on you if you acknowledge your mistakes.  Getting out in front of it is really important."

"Yeah, mom.  It's also called 'kissing ass' and you rocked that pretty hard."

I swing my head towards him in a kind of pleasant shock.  "You think I handled that well?"

"Hell's bells, Mom," he says.  They have such a delicious sense of irony, my kids.   "You talked your way out of a ticket.  No one ever really does that. Only in the movies.  It was awesome."

We head into the cafe for some delicious amazing motherfucking banana coffeecake.  We'll get the retainer and carry on with the day's routine but we had a moment.  This sometimes mean and sometimes nice and sometimes horrible but always tired and definitely well-intentioned mom and her grubby and vulnerable and hilarious son.   Had a moment.  For serious.  Hell's bells.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Heartbreak Hotel: A Study in Anxiety

I want to cry.  In fact, I have been crying off and on all day.  Mamas (and papas too, I suppose), don't let your kids grow up.   Because the day will come when they break your heart in ways you never even dreamed of.  And you know how they will do this?

The exact same way you did it to your parents.   And guess what?  You are going to feel like it is all your fault.  Just like they did.  Or maybe they didn't but they might have and how awful that must have felt because goddamnit I feel really awful right now so buckle up because I am going to tell you.

Right now I have three kids all breaking my heart, each in their own way.  I feel funny writing about them, because it's unfair to them that I write about them all over the internet.  I don't mention them by name but still.  Anyway, this hypothetical bipolar nutjob who pretends she's a big deal to some people she met on Facebook has three kids and each of them is tearing her up like you tear up the turf doing donuts on the football field in the drum major's Jeep for your senior prank.  How's that for anonymous?

Heartbreak No. 1:   19-yo daughter is in love with this kid who's been taken from his parents and put in foster care and been in juvie like three times and doesn't really have a place to live and it's not really clear to us wtf the story is but she loves him and we're not completely heartless to his plight but she has him stay over even though we said we didn't like it and I'm just so wracked up over this I can't get my breath.

Heartbreak No. 2:  17-yo daughter is getting ready to leave for college and the tears are streaming down my face as I type this because I'm the hypothetical bipolar nutjob from two paragraphs ago and I have no business even trying to live in the world, let alone raise kids who are going around breaking my heart over and over.  And sometimes it feels like this kid is the only thing standing between me and the cliff over which I would drive my car over which is a huge exaggeration because I would never do that but I might consider running away.

Heartbreak No. 3:  13-yo son is packing on the pounds and all he likes to do is play that card game Magic: the Gathering which is actually pretty okay with me if he would stop eating so much junk and maybe exercise a little more and who the hell can tell that to their kid but he also needs to pay a little more attention to his schoolwork because he is superbright but he is going to be mad at himself later on when he realizes that he got left behind because he wasn't motivated to do his best because his parents are still struggling with how to encourage him without making him fucking nuts.

So yeah that's my blog post and I'm just posting it without editing it NOT because I need advice (please don't give me any) but because I need to put it out there and please for the love of God understand that the run-on sentences are a stylistic device I'm using to show you how the thoughts are running through my head but you have to know that they are running even faster than this in fact swarming is actually a  better word and that's another reason I have to post this without editing it.

Namaste and thanks for reading if you even got this far because god knows it's hard to read this style of writing without editing the fuck out of it but as I may have mentioned I'm not going to so there you go.