Saturday, May 14, 2011

Girlfriends are a Girl's Best Friend

Mail.  Real, live, stamped, slightly crushed - mail.  YES!

Tucked inside scores of bills, catalogs and the junk... SCORE!  A thick, buttery soft envelope, the color of mocha.  It was from Julie.  And I knew my day was about to improve.

I'm still the same girl that bounds to the mailbox in anticipation - although my steps today were slow, heavy ones.  I adore snail mail, always have... and Julie knows it.  I willed my children not to discover my absence for just 2 more minutes, and tore into the delicious envelope.   My simmering tears, in search of their muse, sprang up.   Inside the card was a faded newspaper clipping, carefully cut and showcased against floral stationary.

Because that's just how Julie rolls.

I smiled at the faded picture.  It was one of Erma Bombeck's columns.  Do you remember, At Wit's End?  She's my hero - and Julie knows that, too.

She knows it because Julie's a true-blue friend, the kind that knows your Starbucks order and your labor stories by heart.  She listens; she pays attention, she springs into action at precisely the right moments.  Like the time I was summoned from Preschool to pick up my wee one with a head full of lice.

I was freaked out, of course... a scarlet "L" emblazened on my mommy rap sheet.
It had been a brutal morning, complete with a walk of shame to the pharmacy, a box of RID and a sheepish preschooler in tow.  When she heard my plight, Julie dropped off lunch, a bottle of chardonnay, and a card (of course!) at my doorstep.

She ditched everything she had going at that moment because she knew my "baby" would be hungry after her sweet little lice-infested scalp had been scoured with an iron comb.  She knew I'd need a drink by the time 5 p.m. rolled around - OK, maybe 4 p.m. - and mostly, she knew I needed to laugh.  Good friends call and empathize.  Girlfriends bring wine and insist you don't interrupt nit-picking to answer the door.

Back to the card.  Let's just say it's been a tough week.  Of course Julie knew that, and so she took the time from her own crazy life and scored some vintage Erma Bombeck for me.  Who does that?   Girlfriends do that.  And a lot more.  You probably already know that.  And if you don't; better find some.  Because you're going to need them.

Especially if you're married.  But don't get me started!

I have  feeling Erma had scores of girlfriends.  Did you know that she was a wife and mother for more than 30 years before she hit the typewriter keys and recorded her legendary musings?  Erma was way ahead of her time, snickering at domestic servitude and bucking the system... refusing to succumb to the pressures of the "girl watchers" and acknowledging the bittersweet side of motherhood.  She rocked then, and she still inspires me now.  Because for all our progress, things haven't changed all that much for mothers.  Even pioneer mothers couldn't go to the outhouse without small hands knocking on the door.

And today, just when I needed it most, Julie channeled the Queen Mother herself and delivered me some serious TLC.  And you want a girlfriend like her when you've had one of those weeks.  Better, you want to be a girlfriend like Julie to a friend who's had one of those weeks.  (You know, like when the lice brigades infiltrate the Preschool.  Or when your husband... well, like I said.  Nevermind.)

So thank you, Julie, again.  And cheers to you, Erma... I hope your afterlife has been a bowl of cherries.   Because you lifted a lot of girlfriends out of the pits.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Confessions of an Imperfect Mother

Let’s hit the Powder Room, Ladies.  Today: motherhood.  Even if you’re not one, listen and learn.

My plan was to rock it.  I’d wanted it since 3rd grade, strolling my “Chrissy” doll around the neighborhood.  Motherhood. I was destined for it.

Growing up in the 70’s, I admired Jan Brady.  She artfully managed her brood with steady calm, doling out advice and homemade cookies.  She always looked cute in her stylish plaid, too.

Jan made it look so easy.  But then, she was a TV mom with a housekeeper and an adoring husband.  My life looks a bit different from hers - and I’m not just talking about the polyester.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become the perfect mother in my na├»ve mind’s eye, eternally patient and poised, always prepared with band-aids and emergency granola bars in my purse.  (More like, I’ve got a crumpled napkin and I can dig out a few lint-covered mints in my purse!)  Like most moms, I can seamlessly cook dinner, scan homework and resolve sibling warfare while cataloguing my workload by priority.  All in all, not bad.  I’m a good enough mom.


I never did quite measure up to my own standards, and there was a time I felt serious guilt over it.  I obsessed and worried and stressed over every decision I made… and felt terrible that some days I just couldn’t muster much passion for one more game of Chutes and Ladders.  I adored my kids, but no one really tells you the rigors associated with mothering after the new-baby euphoria fades.

As a new mother I felt similarly as a newlywed; blissfully unaware my passion for my new role and for my precious brood would simmer.  Totally unaware I’d wake up one day and the sweet, chirping voice I’d heard from myself had taken on a bit of an edge.  That the doting mommy I once was, consumed by my children, obsessed with doing it all by the book… well, she’d been replaced. 

Mommy 2.0 is tougher.  A bit more so on my kids, a bit less so on myself.  More confident; wiser. I make mistakes, lots of them.  I yell at my kids.  When my husband drives me insane (so glad he rarely reads my blogs) I often fail to edit my responses in front of my kids.  But I also apologize for my mistakes.  I show my children that it’s ok to struggle, to fail, to cry, to yell, to have a full range of emotions. 

Mommies are human too, and while we may be able to explain the differences between a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus, we really don’t have all the answers.  My husband says we should never show a chink in our armor (don’t tell him I told you that), but I disagree.  I’m modeling for my children what it means to walk in the world and respond to its demands, including theirs.  Sometimes the world has to wait, and so do they.

I’m a different mom now - a seasoned one.  Good enough to know I’m doing OK, humble enough to know I can do better. 

So Happy Mother’s Day to me.  And to you.  I might not be a perfect one, but I just got a card where my brood called me the best mom in the world.  Yours probably feel the same way.  Just for today, let’s let them believe it.