I am supposed to be baking cookies right now. Chocolate chip cookies, for my girls to pass out to their classmates, in honor of their tenth birthdays arriving this weekend. Except I don’t want to bake cookies. Especially not…let’s see here…27 kids per class, two classes, each kid needs two cookies, plus teachers, plus aides…is that 112 cookies?
Have you seen that movie Office Space, where the guy goes to work every day and then one day he just doesn’t? He just stops going to work, or rather, he shows up but doesn’t actually do any work, or even pretend to work? Well, that’s me. My parental expiration stamp – ‘Good until 6/13/13’ – has come to pass. I can no longer muster up the mojo to be excited about any kind of kid stuff – teacher appreciation week; birthdays; pajama day; music recitals; animal plays; memory books; field trips; graduations; yearbooks; swim team try outs; slumber parties; class registrations; sports banquets; award ceremonies…(I really could go on and on). I feel like I’ve bought it all, done it all, sat through it all, and I just can’t bake any damn cookies anymore!
It doesn’t help that my kitchen is a mess. That I should technically unload and then reload the dishwasher before I begin. Nor does it help that when I did get up the gumption to bake two days ago – gathered all the ingredients, pre-warmed the oven, found the mixing bowls, retrieved enough salt from the salt shakers – the butter was cold. I had to set it all aside and wait for ‘the softening’ to occur, and of course now it’s been aside, it’s still aside, and the butter is very soft indeed, but instead of making cookies I dribble puddles of lard onto sourdough bread, then bury it under jelly, pour some more coffee, all while carefully averting my eyes from the oven’s general direction.
Just last week I wrote a disgruntled post on Facebook about having to attend interminable music concerts, and one of our friends, a very gifted and devoted music teacher (ALL of our friends are music teachers, so I picked a good topic!) wrote back “pfft…why bother going?” Which I’ll admit is a fair and pertinent question. I guess my honest answer would be ‘duty’, ‘obligation’, ‘a few seconds of pride and delight and happiness while watching my child perform, which is then quickly overtaken by prickly hot flashes; crying babies; fleeting stomach cramps; intermittent prayers that the dropped instruments rolling underneath the chairs are not the ones I am currently paying for; a weird, persistent, blinking light on the camera (is it even working?); the sudden overwhelming desire to be outside, in fresh air, with a cocktail or two.’
Obviously, the concerts are not designed to please me, specifically. Yet the music teachers must know that I’ve heard these songs before. I’ve seen my kids, your kids, these exact kids perform these exact songs ad infinitum (Often all at the same time, in my living room or front yard). I’ve been to lots and lots of recitals and shows and performances, and when they last more than an hour, while you sit there with your sweaty, whiny kids (or your seat-mates’ sweaty, whiny kids), and your child appears on stage in the back row and you can see half of her left ear while she’s performing, and you have another kid performing at the exact same time across the neighborhood at another school, and that kid is of course heartbroken that you’re not attending her concert, and you’ve already had to drop off one kid here, then drive back to drop off another kid over there, then gather up more kids at home to attend said concert here, while another segment of the family’s set to walk there, and you’re assuming you can all meet up afterwards over there (except that the concerts are two hours long and counting), and your kid tells you in the car on the way over that their ‘Japanese story book’ that they can’t find and haven’t actually started is due in the morning, and none of you have eaten dinner or had any wine at all…um, let’s just say the novelty has worn off.
Clearly, I acknowledge that this is a cop-out answer and does not qualify me for any parenting awards. But mostly I think – my poor twins! This sour attitude was not one I carted around as a new mother, when Jacob had a Mother’s Day Tea and I went out and bought a skirt to wear and had my nails done and was standing at the door ready to go two hours early, just counting down the minutes till I could drive up to the kindergarten! I am no longer the same mother who, upon being told that Eli was doing poorly in third grade because he refused to capitalize any letters or put periods at the end of his sentences went marching in to his classroom, plopped my booty down into a tiny blue molded chair, then spent the day looking for each and every string of words that made any sort of sense, whispering kindly and patiently in Eli’s ear, “What did you forget here, honey?” Yes, that’s right. A capital. See, when you start a sentence you are proclaiming something to the world. You must make your letters stand up very straight and tall so the world will listen. “Look over here and be quiet while I tell you something important!” the capital exclaims. Just like that. Oh dear…now you’ve forgotten again. A capital, remember? See, your pencil is like the soldier standing at attention. And the capital is his way of yelling at his troops – ‘Atten-HUT! There, you’ve got it! And what do we put at the end, when you’re all done? A period! See, like this…because your soldier has finished his thought, and at long last he can rest. Doesn’t that little dot look nice there…ah! It looks so restful, like a little pillow for your soldier to lay his head upon. See, the pencil and your sentences are like a great, big, important play on a stage – First comes the soldier who shouts ‘Listen up, world!’ Then he spells out his noble thoughts and actions until finally…at long, long last he proclaims, ‘Ta Da! My heart has been heard, my duty is done…this sentence is at peace.’ (Here he bows, lies his head upon the pillow, and adds, ‘You may clap for me now, if you’d like.’)
My two girls have had quite a different mother from that mother altogether. They have had an impatient, cranky, ‘Are you kidding me? You can’t be bothered to put a period in there? It’s one tiny, stupid dot! Ugh! Well, go ahead and fail the third grade then, missy…It’s all job security to me!” kind of mom.
With my first few children I never yelled. I willingly made cookies. I was fairly excited to attend their beginning recitals and plays and performances. Overall I was young and optimistic and downright indulgent, to the point that one day I begged Damon to play hooky from work and instead have a ‘lego’ day with me and the boys. I quite clearly remember handing him a credit card and telling him to, “race to Toys R Us’, buy a ton of legos, while I stay here and bake cookies! We’ll set up a whole lego town and put the boys’ trains around it…how cool will that be?”
Damon hand-made our first three kids incredible loft beds and train tables and toy shelves, while every single thing the twins have ever owned has been bought at Ikea or Target, but mainly Goodwill. We’ve had no money for them to ‘try’ baseball or preschool or girl scouts or any other jet-setting activity middle-class, fairly privileged kids normally get to have a go at. The mediocrity of “living within our means” has supplanted mortgaging the house for legos. These little girls have just been carted around like two extra suitcases shoved helter-skelter into the car, dragged here and there to all the other kids’ events, and now, finally, it is time for their events, and I can’t find the inner willpower to slap a smile on my face and just bake the darn cookies.
Yesterday, out of desperation, I went to the store. I was ready to break down and just buy the cookies. But I couldn’t…literally. I mean, how crazy expensive are cookies now? With twelve to a box, I would need four boxes per girl, no, five? And they’re how much? Obviously whatever I buy can’t contain nuts or corn syrup, which wipes out every single cheaper alternative, and oh, for pity sake…I better just bake the cookies, right?
But I can’t. And that’s the point of this post, I guess. I feel like I’ve rambled on and on for years, mostly just about me, and mothering, moan, moan, moan…and now this dribbling, dragging sentence is at long, long last, yearning for a period…aching for peace.
My twins turn ten tomorrow. Ten! Where have I been, that my youngest are ten? Technically they’re not even ‘young’ anymore! My job feels like suddenly it should be outsourced, to someone younger, fresher, cheaper. Someone bilingual, willing to work night shifts, capable of baking 112 cookies. Someone who knows better than to serve young charges alcoholic beverages, then pose for picture proof while they’re still clinking glasses together.I hope one day, some day, my girls can look past the cantankerous me and know that my love for them out shadows my enthusiasm by a gazillion. That if I could, I would enroll them in a billion summer camps and take them to a million fun places. And that the reason I will continue to sit through thousands of hours of recitals and plays and concerts and assemblies is because of them. It’s their cute little left ear I’m staring at up there, under the bright lights, shining, shining, that little person I helped mold morphing into their own, truer self right before my eyes…