My best friend send me this link today. Apparently, Gwyneth Paltrow, my ethical touchstone and lifestyle idol, has chosen to strike a blow for peri-menopausal women everywhere. She's gone native in her nether regions. I'll let you read the details from the study on your own, but I will ask you to think about the following:
1. Who in God's name is conducting these studies?
2. Who in God's name is responding to these studies?
My children have not always gotten along. As in I didn't think they would ever grow up to have the relationship that I wished for them. As in the large crack on our inner window that stayed there for 8 years after a hairbrush was thrown at someone. As in the time that someone's temple connected with the handset of the cordless phone. They're Eeyore and Tigger. Shrek and Donkey. Starsky and Hutch (the Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson ones). Watching them interact is like watching someone try to comb out dreadlocks. Painful and ultimately usually not worth it.
There was a time a couple of years ago, when G was a sophomore, that T and I used to talk about how mean she was. And how we were afraid of what would happen if we died. You know those Lifetime shows where the parents die and the sisters go to any lengths to stay together when social services come to separate them? Those are not my kids. We even went so far as to say to G, "Daddy and I could die tomorrow. And then all you would have in this world is your sister, and if you treat her like this, she won't like you either, and you'll be all alone in this world." I am not proud of this, and I do concede that it completely disregards logic, the Texas estate laws, and any loving feeling toward my child at all, but there it was.
Lately, however, in the tiniest of ways, the light dawns. Sometimes, the light is reflected such as when I had a tremendous fight with S, and G, a hale and hearty veteran of such battles, came into my room and said, "It'll be okay. It's the same fight we used to have only over something different." Oh, God. Is it really? Have I learned NOTHING from parenting the first one? Have I not GROWN from this process? AM I DOOMED TO HAVE TO DO THIS ALL OVER AGAIN? And then, sweet G loaded the dishwasher and went merrily and sweetly on her way. Until the next morning, when S made them late for leaving. I think I heard swear words as they were backing out of the driveway. At full speed. And all was back to normal.
But last night, I saw the light as the shepherds might have (it might be a bit of a stretch to compare these little sibling episodes to the birth of Jesus, it might not). Last night, we endured the single, most miserable football game experience ever. It was 36 degrees and raining. Wrapped in every piece of clothing we owned, which promptly became soaked, we braved the elements to attend what would be G's last high school football game. We were also there to see S perform in the drumline. S admitted, after halftime (90 minutes into the evening), that the ankle socks and canvas converse low-tops were not the best idea. Through blue lips, chattering teeth, and streaming eyes, she said, "My f-f-f-feet are so c-c-c-old." Twelve months ago, had S had a rare disease that required a fingernail clipping to save her, G would never have given it up. But last night, G took off her fuzzy, dry socks and her fleece-lined boots, stood on a towel, and gave up her boots for her sister. Yes, we were leaving. Yes, she only had to walk 15 yards to the car in wet sneakers. But she did it. And I began to hope.
I never had a sister. I don't have the foggiest idea what it must be like. I was always jealous of friends who had sisters they were close to - my closest friends from church growing up, my law school roommate. As close as I am to my brother, there is something special to that relationship that's not like any other. And I want that so badly for my children. I hope it's possible. I became a much nicer person when I went away to college, or maybe I just grew up. So maybe, they can have that, too -- a sister you can always turn to, who knows what you're going through, who understands without you having to say anything, and who you can rely on when your parents grow old and senile, which given our medical history is totally going to happen.
I have about forty journals. Some of them are composition books with groovy, industrial designs, some are covered in rich fabric, some are recycled paper, but they all have one thing in common. Only four pages filled out, full of goals for writing consistently, keeping track of my children's milestones, etc. And then nothing.
I've never been able to sustain the habit of writing regularly. Unless it's a blog, and let's be honest, I've let 11 months go by. But anyhoo, sometimes even in those four entries, there's a golden nugget. And I found one last week from 2008, I think. Just a snippet of conversation, but a telling one.
S: Can I have a cotton swab?
S: Why is one of them purple?
Me: I don't know.
S: Maybe it likes to party.
This is perfect in a lot of ways -- a 10-year-old's take on how the world works, her sense of wonder, the idea of Q-tips partying in their little box under the bathroom sink, but it is mostly perfect because of the unmistakable and absolutely intentional invocation of Cal and Ricky Bobby. You CANNOT go wrong with an allusion to Talladega Nights.
They don't tell you about this part -- the one at the end. There are a lot of books that tell you about your baby's first hours, days, months, years. There are websites that show you what your baby looks at any given moment even before it is born. (Not sure why this creeps me out, but it does). They'll tell you every detail about their care and feeding, their needs, their development, their little hearts. Some even tell you about how smelly and sweaty and sad and scary having children really is. Those were the ones I read on about day five without a shower and day 30-something without being able to poop alone.
But there aren't many books that tell you about the other end. The part where if you do your job right, you lose it. That you are fixing to watch that little teeny, tiny person walk out the door and go to college. And you just want to curl up into a fetal position and weep. Which I am (somewhat unexpectedly) doing right now as I type. And they don't tell you about the mood swings between could-you-just-unload-the-fucking-dishwasher-and-oh-my-God-she's-leaving-me, which occur with startling regularity and frequently have only milliseconds between them. Most of the time, I swerve like a drunken sailor between being super, super excited for her (I loved college a whole lot) to the deepest grief over what I am losing, slowly, over the next nine months. It's the ultimate of ironies, like pregnancy in reverse.
And what would you title those books anyway? What to Expect Senior Year? How Not to Murder Your Almost-Adult Daughter? Grief, Loss, and a New Craft Room? There isn't just one reaction or one response or one feeling that goes along with this process. It's hard to know what to do or what to think or what to feel. The manual hasn't been written yet. So, in the meantime, I'll do what any self-respecting senior parent would do, I'll just bury those feelings way down deep and let them bubble up as anger and resentment. Just kidding. Sort of.
So, as part of my grieving/separation/celebration process, I started a new crochet project on the first day of her last year of school, August 26th. My plan was, and miraculously still is, to work on it through the fall and winter and have it completed by graduation day the first week of June. I'm going to try to weave all the way through this blanket prayers for her safety and wellbeing, wishes for her success and happiness, and positive thoughts for when times are tough. And on the days when I can't do that, I'm going to try to not weave curses in it. Baby steps. We picked out her yarn in May:
And I worked on it through the fall tennis season. And band season. And college visits. And college application season. And I've still got a loooooong way to go. Nine months, as it happens.
I'll keep you posted.
In an effort to keep it honest, much like we did on the previous project, I'll be posting daily (or what passes for daily) in the QC and plan to include at least one daily step in the process of letting go. Maybe little helpful tips or tricks we've learned along the way, such as: Don't say,"You'll never survive college if you write like a fifth grader. What the hell?" as a part of your college essay feedback process. That might or might not have actually happened.