The Middle Child

f507A lot has been written about the middle child. Unfortunately I can’t be bothered to go look it up because, pffft, who cares?

Actually, that’s not true. I, myself, am a Jan Brady of sorts. Not the oldest, not the youngest, not the only boy. I’m as middle as it gets in a family with four kids.

In my own brood, it’s a little more complicated. Back in the 80s, I had two. So there was an oldest and a youngest. Eleven years later, I had another one. So she became the youngest and the previous youngest became the middle. But no, because of the huge gap between them, the first two remain apart from this third one who, while definitely still the baby, is really more like an only child in every way.

And then five years pass, and in fairly rapid succession, there are two more. (NB: What the heck was I thinking??)

Now that third one is no longer the baby. She’s also no longer an only. Mathematically, she’s a middle child, but is she?  Because she’s pretty bossy with the younger two, lording her seniority over them, so she’s kind of an oldest, but there is a big gap between her and the older ones and another big gap between her and the younger ones.

So, let’s review, shall we? The girl who is precisely a middle child has fulfilled the roles of youngest, oldest, middle, and only child.

Well, no wonder she’s got that slightly dazed look on her face so often!

Today is July 12th and my middle daughter, Sarah “Rose” (that’s her fake middle name because she didn’t like the one her dad and I gave her) is 20 years old. TWENTY! How did that happen?

Here’s what I know about middle daughters:

  1. Sometimes they feel like they don’t have much in common with their mothers when, in fact, they do. More than they realize now, but they will over time. All the good parts, none of the bad. Well, except that volume-control thing. Let’s work on that, OK?
  2. For about 3 years, they made their mothers watch them do cartwheels. Constant cartwheels. All cartwheels, all the time. “Wait, I messed that one up. Let me try again. Hold on, one more time. That one was bad. Watch this one!” For a long period of time, their mothers never wanted to see another cartwheel again, but…. some would love to see one more now just for the sheer comedic value of it. In fact, some really do have fond memories of all the cartwheels.
  3. They are bossy as can be with their little sisters, but they are wonderful to them, too. Involved, caring, honest, helpful.
  4. They feel things deeply and are always trying to help one side see the point of view of the other side. They are diplomatic. They are mediators. They collaborate well and bring people together. They get along.
  5. They may think I’ve forgotten about The Incident from early 2015 but, no, I have not. (I just slipped this one in so you’d know you’re not off the hook.)
  6. They work hard. They work hard at school and at work and at home. They may think their mothers and others don’t notice or appreciate this but they’d be wrong. (Also? See point #1.  Yeah.)
  7. They try their best to do the right thing. That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes sometimes (See point #5) but mostly they care about being a good person.
  8. They will go far in life. It won’t always be easy but they will never give up.
  9. They are loved and admired.
  10. They like lists that end with a nice, even 10 entries. (See point #1.) (I might have made this one up. I really don’t know if you’re as weird as me in this regard.)

One last thing – middle daughters never get blog posts written about them. Well, hardly ever.  😉

Happy birthday, Sarah Noelle.  Let’s go have some Red Lobster (and here we are back to point #1 again) to celebrate what I know will be a great year for you!

SarahNov06_3

By |July 12th, 2016|Indiscriminate Drivel|Comments Off on The Middle Child

Don’t Look Down

Fear-of-HeightsI’m not afraid of heights. Not really. I mean, I can easily do Ferris wheels and tall buildings. I’ve stood on the thick plexi-glass floor on the top level of the Sears tower. I’ve been to the top of the Space Needle. Had drinks at the Metropolitan Museum rooftop bar in New York.

I’m not afraid.

But watching my children maneuver when they are somewhere high up where they could possibly fall? That terrifies me.

It’s a good metaphor for life, I guess.

The general advice for people afraid of heights is don’t look down.  Of course you know down is there but if you look, you could get dizzy and that increases the risk of the very thing you fear, stumbling, falling, jumping.

Life isn’t a vertical journey, though. We have what’s up ahead and we have what is behind us. Often people will tell you not to look back, leave the past in the past, soldier on, move forward. That’s all good and fine but I have a different view. I think the equivalent to the person afraid of heights looking down is the person unsure about the future looking ahead. It can cause dizziness and fear.

And looking back doesn’t have to mean holding onto that which you must move past. You can look in the rear-view mirror simply to see the progress you’ve made.

Back when I had a team of people reporting into me, this was a mantra of mine. Often, we were so busy, spending so much time seemingly banging our heads against the wall, feeling like it was impossible to get anything done, I would often say “Look back and see what we did.” Because your progress is easily visible when you look back. And if we can look back and see progress we’ve already made, even in tough circumstances, then it’s logical that we can expect more progress in our futures, even if it seems impossible in the moment, dizzying, head-bangingly frustrating.

That’s my life right now. I get dizzy looking ahead. Things still have not settled down. I have that horizontal fear of heights regarding my future. I’m anxious for everything to be orderly, and yet right now I’m still unsure of how it will all come out. But when I look in my rear-view mirror, I know there is progress. Adjusting, adapting, coming to terms with the new reality of my life. I’m working. I’m sleeping at night. I go out socially with good friends. I grocery shop on Wednesdays. I have a routine, a brand new routine that now includes mowing the lawn and repairing lamps. I bought a drill. And if I have an occasional day where I barely get out of bed (ahem, yesterday I binge-watched The Newsroom all day), it’s because I choose not to, not because I just can’t.

If looking forward makes you dizzy, just don’t. Don’t look down.  Look back to see how far you’ve come and let that give you assurance that you will continue to move forward, even if things are still unsettled. Even if you’re still trying to work out some really big stuff. It’ll be OK. You’ll get through it. Life’s gravity will pull you forward.  Just do your best, it’s almost always good enough.

Signed,

Talking to Myself

 

By |July 11th, 2016|Indiscriminate Drivel, Not even a little funny|Comments Off on Don’t Look Down

Perfect Attendance

 

Mom 1Our mothers are our first and most important female role models.

In those early years, they are the center of our universes. We think they know everything.

A few years later, the eye-rolling starts and before long, we’re bound and determined to do the exact opposite of anything our mothers tell us we should do.

Here is the one thing you should know about my mom – she had perfect attendance in high school, a fact she never failed to throw in our faces.

“MOM! I think I have that flesh-eating bacteria. Or maybe leprosy. I can’t go to school today. Call the attendance office and tell them I won’t be in.”

“Linda. Get your uniform on and get to school. I had perfect attendance in high school, you know.”

Now, it’s possible it didn’t go down that way. Probably, she didn’t throw it in our faces at all. In fact, I may never even have had a flesh-eating bacteria.

Memory is a fallible thing.

Maybe it went something like this:

The young, sassy version of me standing in the kitchen, hands on my hips. “Pam’s mom is a nurse. Peggy’s mom works for Century 21 and wears a gold blazer. Lisa’s mom makes homemade ravioli on Thanksgiving. Have you ever done anything? What do you have for me to toss into this competition, Mother?”

And she’d be all lower-lip-trembling, blinking back tears, her voice breaking up “Well… I did have perfect attendance in high school, but, really, it was no big deal.”

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios. I don’t actually remember Mom telling us she had perfect attendance. As a little girl, I remember going through her big leather jewelry chest, one drawer at a time, and seeing that high school perfect-attendance pin laying there on the red velvet next to her class ring and some of the most amazing giant daisy clip-on earrings I had ever seen.

I just always knew my mom had perfect attendance in high school.

Some years after high school, she married my dad and before long, she had three babies in diapers at the same time.  We weren’t multiples, we were just Irish. And Catholic.

Eventually, my youngest sister joined the family. Once all four of us were in school, my mom went back to work. It wasn’t  gold-blazer job or anything like that, but still, it was a darn good job. I don’t think they gave perfect attendance awards at work, but if they did, she would have gotten one. Well, until the blizzard hit.

In 1982, St. Louis had a huge blizzard. Over 18 inches of snow fell on us on a quiet Sunday. The whole city came to a stand-still. Monday was, of course, a snow-day for us kids, but my mom was determined to go to work. She had all four of us out there digging her car out of its city block parking spot. And we did. We dug that car out. I remember thinking “Now what, Mom?” I wondered if she was going to have us run ahead of the car and shovel the road all the way to Anheuser-Busch.

If there was a perfect attendance award at her work, she lost it that day. She couldn’t get to the office. She was not happy.  My mom didn’t like to miss work. She wasn’t the type to not show up.

Because, as you know, she had perfect attendance in high school.

In contrast, I did not.

My siblings and I knew better than to try to fake illness with my mom to get out of school. Fortunately, she left early for work and my dad was the parent in charge in the mornings. My strategy, once I reached the devious and brilliant age of adolescence, was to wait for Mom to leave and then approach Dad.

“Uh, Dad? I have really bad cramps.”  I would say. He didn’t ask questions after that.

That only worked until Mom found out, because even with menstrual cramps, Mom showed up.

The truth is, I didn’t even finish high school. I had to do that Catholic schoolgirl walk of shame, my white blouse untucked from my uniform skirt to cover up my burgeoning baby bump. I finished my diploma via correspondence courses.  My mom made sure I showed up, even if it was by US Postal Service.

My first daughter was born when I was 18. I was still living at home. I needed some time to get my mom-legs steady under me and learn how to handle this whole being-in-charge-of-another-human thing. My mom showed up for me through all of that.

Eventually, I moved out and then had a second child. When the marriage to their father failed, I found myself a single mother. I had my kids and I had a job, but he took the only car we had, so I had no vehicle and no money with which to buy one.

During that period in my life, my mom showed up at my house every morning. She picked me and the girls up, drove to my babysitter’s house so I could drop my kids off, drove to my office so she could drop her kid off, then she went to work. At the end of the day, my mom showed up to pick me up from work, then took me to pick my daughters up, took us home and finally went home herself. For over a year, five days a week, until I could afford a little used car of my own, my mom showed up for me.

Over the years, my mom showed up for a lot of things. Softball games, band concerts, birthday parties. Sometimes I landed on her doorstep with an overdrawn checking account or a failed marriage and she showed up for me then, too.

Looking back, I kind of wish we would have shoveled her all the way to work the day of that blizzard in 1982.

I can’t go back and do that, of course, but what I can do, and what I’ve tried to do, is follow in her footsteps and show up for my daughters.  And while I’ve been tempted to join the Witness Protection Program during those teen years, thus far, I’ve been true to her example.

I’ve shown up for them because my mother, the most important role model in my life, always showed up for me.

Needless to say, I stopped rolling my eyes many years ago.

There’s a lot going on in my life right now. I’ve just started a new job. I’m in the middle of a divorce. Sometimes I need someone to pick up my kids for me and sometimes I need someone to pick up the phone for me. In any case, I know I can reach out to my mom, because where motherhood is concerned, she has perfect attendance.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Mom 3

Mom 2

Mom 4

 

 

By |May 4th, 2016|Indiscriminate Drivel|Comments Off on Perfect Attendance