UPDATED 9/19 – Because it’s really hard to write a decent blog post about being a good mom on my iPad. Also, that wine I was drinking didn’t help.
Dinner for One. iPad Not Included.
What does it mean to be a good mom? That’s easy to define when they’re little. You feed them, you protect them, you play with them. You keep them clean.
It’s more complicated when they’re older.
Over the summer, my daughter bought tickets to see a concert being held tonight. Yes, it’s a Wednesday – but after three years of high school, when she assures me that she can handle it, I am willing to let her try.
The concert is in LA’s Miracle Mile district. Neither my daughter nor her friends are legally able to drive the others yet – and even if that wasn’t the case, I’m not sure I would be comfortable with it.
So tonight, for me, being a good mom means sitting alone in a nice restaurant near LACMA, enjoying a nice meal and a glass of wine.
It means trying not to stare at the large multi-generational family at the next table, even though one of the toddlers is emitting some truly spine-tingling shrieks. And I mean that literally: I felt a tremor run up my back.
It means figuring out how to kill more time after the waiter has rushed me out without offering dessert. I don’t actually need either the calories or the expense — but it would have been nice to linger a little longer. The concert started at 8:00. I have 90 minutes to go.
It means wandering around the Farmers Market and the Grove, looking for something to do that won’t cost an arm and a leg. I stopped in at Sur La Table for Nespresso capsules. I would have bought those anyway. I peeked inside Crate & Barrel and walked right back out. Too dangerous. Same thing with Nordstrom.
Last night’s full moon over The Grove.
It means glancing in the Apple Store window, only to learn that the new iPhones won’t be on display until Friday. Nothing to see here.
I toyed with the idea of catching a movie. But what if the concert gets out early? Or if my daughter just needs me? Better to skip it.
Should I get dessert at Fat Cow? Or would that just end up being my own personal self-fulfilling prophecy? I passed on it.
Being a good mom means driving around Beverly Hills and West Hollywood in search of a place near the El Rey Theater where I can sit and browse the web for a couple of hours.
I vaguely remember being out at night all the time in my 20s and 30s — before I became a mom. How did I do that then? Where did I go? And why do I get the feeling that even if those places were still around, I wouldn’t fit in?
I wonder what happened to the 24-hour coffee shop? Or permit-free street parking? There’s a NORM’s with a lot on La Cienega, north of the Beverly Center — but that’s too far.
Perhaps a hotel lobby… The SLS and Sofitel are both nearby. But there’s the parking thing again. Plus, I am in my usual jeans and t-shirt and remember the time we got turned away from the lobby of the London Ritz because we were too scruffy to enter. Better not try that.
Being a good mom last night meant inspecting the underground parking at the Ralph’s supermarket a block from the theater to see if it was safe and lit well. And if I wanted to purchase a small bag of Lindt chocolates and call it dessert while I did crossword puzzles in the car, that was OK, too.
Being a good mom meant being there to pick up her daughter and her friends and drive everyone home so they could get to bed by midnight.
Last night, my daughter thanked me and I felt good.
English: A small box of Kleenex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My husband leaves for work really early every morning, so I’m used to sleeping through the 5:00 a.m. alarm. But today was different: School has started and once again, my daughter must begin her day with a cruel 7:00 a.m. 0 period. She instructed her dad to make sure she got out of bed at 5:30, which he did. Then he tried to do the same to me.
“I’ve got another half hour,” I mumbled.
This was true. Yesterday, my daughter noted that she would rather not lug a full lunchbox around school until they issue her a new locker — and that may not be for a couple of days. So freed of the responsibility of making her lunch, I made an executive decision to postpone my shower until after I drop her off… which allowed me to stay in bed an extra 30 minutes.
She spent most of Monday finishing up her summer assignments. I remembered that the light was still on in her room when I went to bed.
“How late were you up last night?” I asked.
No answer. That means she only slept for a handful of hours. I have stopped nagging her about this. Of course, she needs more sleep — but between her studies and assignments and that dreadful early period, it’s not possible. That’s why I also took it so easy on her over the summer, when she stayed in bed past noon nearly every day, as if she could bank all those extra hours of sleep for the Fall.
At 6:30, we were backing out of the driveway.
“Did you ever read The Crucible?” she asked.
No. Death of a Salesman is the only Arthur Miller play I’m familiar with, and it’s been a couple of decades since I gave it a good read.
“The first thing we’re doing is taking a test on it,” she explained, “and I’m having trouble keeping track of Putnam, Parris and Proctor. Too many characters beginning with ‘P.’”
So we drove to school in near silence while she tried to create a mental cheat sheet on which character was which.
We arrived at our destination at 6:50 — right on time. There were already several students milling about.
“I will see you at 3:00,” I said before she slammed the door shut and began her senior year of high school.
I drove away, feeling sad that I had not taken a photo of her to commemorate this occasion. I didn’t even try; she put the kibosh on first day pictures years ago. The only photographic remembrance I will have is the senior portrait she posed for last week, and she was not all that happy about doing that. I’m pretty sure the only reason she went along with it is that it was required for the yearbook, and her father and I insisted. We were happy to receive framed senior photos as gifts from each of her older cousins as they finished 12th grade and we plan to do the same.
“I think it’s weird to give people a photo of yourself as a gift,” she said.
Not if those people are your family and friends who love you.
I got home and fired up Facebook and saw all the updates from my friends with kids who will be graduating this year, and I was reminded of the day I walked her into school for the first time, 12 years ago. The PTA at our elementary school had a tradition of hosting the mothers of the new students with a reception they called the “Tissue Tea,” where the party favors were be-ribboned purse-size packets of Kleenex.
I could use one of those right now. I have a feeling I will need a case of them this year.
The Wheatland Amphitheatre near Sacramento. Copyright 2013 by Donna Schwartz Mills
I have a ton of things to do before I send my daughter back to school tomorrow. So why did I spend my weekend driving up and down the Central Valley?
It started back in April, when we celebrated Megan’s birthday. My sister’s gift was a ticket to a concert featuring one of my kid’s favorite bands, the Irish group The Script.
There was just one hitch: The concert was being held on August 10, the Saturday before the start of school. In Sacramento. This is where my sister and her family live.
Not that big a deal, right? My usual routine the weekend before the start of school involves a big Costco shopping trip for the things I need to pack in her lunch, but most years I get the other shopping done ahead of time. And even though this was not my usual summer — I have been out of town a lot — she’s going into her senior year. You’d think I would have everything under control…
…and you would be wrong, because that’s not how I roll.
But back in April, we did not think a quick trip up to Sacramento and back the weekend before the start of school would be that big a deal. The worst case scenario might include us just sending Megan up and down on Southwest, which would free us up to take care of whatever we needed to do on the weekend. We had lots of time to decide how to handle it, so we waited until we were closer to the date.
And then in June, our niece (one of the ones in Sacramento) graduated from high school, and her brother took a page from his mom’s book and gifted her with a ticket to see the band, Train, on August 9.
“It’s in LA,” he told her, and the plan was that he and she would drive down here together to see the show.
Here’s the funny part: The Script concert and the Train concert were both the same show, because the Script was opening for Train.
My daughter and niece didn’t mind. They thought it would be great fun to follow the band from here to there and see the same show two nights in a row.
At some point in this discussion, we realized that the concert in LA on Friday night was actually in Irvine. People who don’t live here tend to lump all of Southern California into a label called “Los Angeles,” but it’s quite a distance from our home in the San Fernando Valley down to the Irvine Amphitheatre, and that distance tends to be crammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. But hey — this was going to be special. We could deal with it.
Then my nephew wound embarking to Israel on August 7, so he was not able to accompany her. So the new plan involved my sister and niece somehow arriving here on Friday so the girls could attend the show (while the parents enjoyed a nice dinner out), and then Megan would go up to Sacramento with them and then we would get her home to us somehow on Sunday, perhaps on a plane but maybe I would drive or maybe my husband would, too. We had time to figure it out.
By last week, we had still not figured it out.
My niece had taken a part-time job and she was scheduled to work on Saturday night (which was when she was supposed to see the concert with my daughter in Sacramento). There was a chance that she could switch hours with a co-worker, which meant she would work on Friday instead (the night of the tickets her brother gave her). In that case, they would send the Friday night tickets to us, Megan could take a friend to Irvine, and then we would have to get her to Sacramento on Saturday for the second show. And since we hadn’t really dealt with this until now, airline tickets were pretty much out of the question. One or both parents were going to have to drive.
“We can all see the show together,” my sister announced. That may have been in the back of her head all along: the ticket she gave my daughter for her birthday was one of a set of six.
“We saw Train at a convention a few years ago and we really liked them,” my sister explained on Friday after I met her and Maddy at the Santa Clarita Amtrak dropoff on Friday afternoon. It was about 2:30. We had just enough time to drop their bags off at home, pick up a blanket and bottled water (my nephew had gifted his sister with lawn tickets) and head down to Irvine. We expected to get there early, which would allow us to scope out the area and figure out where to pick the girls up when the show was over.
It took us over two hours to get there.
But our plan was good: The parking lot was just opening and we arrived among just a few folks who had come to do a little tailgating before the show. The parking attendants pointed out the best spot for drop-off and pickup. We learned that it was OK to bring food in to the show, so we decided to search for a Subway.
The nearest one turned out to be at the Irvine Spectrum, a mall that was just a couple of blocks away from the Amphitheatre.
We dropped the girls off and debated where to have dinner. We tried to estimate how long we had: The show was scheduled to start at 7:00, but likely wouldn’t begin right on time. There were three acts (Gavin DeGraw was set to start before The Script)… We would want to be back at the Amphitheatre at least a half hour before the show ended. We figured we had three hours to kill.
We weren’t all that far from beautiful Laguna Beach. We could sip mojitos and watch the sun set over the Pacific…
…or we could stay close by and have a relaxed dinner at one of the restaurants in the mall.
What do YOU think a couple of Jewish mothers would choose to do? Of course, we stayed close to our kids. We ended up having a really wonderful dinner at Paul Martin’s, one of a chain of American bistro-type restaurants owned by the same guy behind PF Chang’s and Fleming’s Steakhouse (you see, the guy’s name is Paul Martin Fleming). We stretched that dinner out with drinks, appetizers and dessert. It was all really, really good.
The girls texted us with updates throughout the meal: “We’re inside”… “Gavin DeGraw just started”… “The Script is playing”… “Train is about to begin.” And as we were paying our bill: “We’re OK with leaving any time you’re ready.”
We texted them back with our location back at the Amphitheatre parking lot and drove back to my house, making it back at 11:30. This was a good thing, because Maddy’s shift on Saturday began at 2:00 p.m., which meant we needed to be on the road the next morning by 6:00.
My sister decided not to go on Saturday night. She didn’t want Maddy to come home from work to an empty house (Jewish mother, remember?), so she told her eldest daughter to invite one of her friends.
So here’s the thing: There was a time when I was passionate about music. My dream was to be a writer for Rolling Stone, like Cameron Crowe. I got kind of close: My first job out of college was writing (and later producing) a nationally syndicated weekly Top 30 countdown show for the RKO Radio network (among others). Basically, I interviewed rock stars for a living and got to attend two or three concerts every week — for free. That experience made it hard for me to justify paying hard-earned money for the crummy seats I could actually afford to buy, so I stopped going to concerts.
And I wasn’t all that interested in going to this one. The only act I was familiar with was the Script, who remind me a little bit of U2 before they got huge. It’s not just that both bands are from Dublin: I think the Script’s rich sound and the quality of their songs make them a band to watch.
The truth is, as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more curmudgeonly. I dislike crowds. I don’t want to deal with the parking. And I hate being the oldest person in the room.
I told my sister I would be OK with keeping her company at home. My husband, however, didn’t want to hear that. He wanted me there.
“Go,” my sister said.
So I did. And I had fun. It helped noticing that I wasn’t the only old fogie in the multi-generational audience. And the show was really good, with the three acts very well-matched.
I decided that I really like Gavin DeGraw, who was funny and charming and seemed to be having a really good time with the audience. I learned that I was familiar with some of Train’s hit songs, but didn’t like them enough to bother to learn the name of the group that performed them. It surprised me to see how popular they were with the audience, who were singing along as if they were the second coming of Springsteen. I felt like I do when I go to church with my husband and pretend to be familiar with the hymns everyone else is singing.
I ended up deciding that the cult of Train is like Jimmy Buffet’s Parrotheads. I never got into Buffet’s music, but I cannot deny that a lot of other people find it appealing.
But the bottom line is: it was worth it. The whole shebang — from the ordeal of driving to Orange County in rush hour to getting up at the crack of dawn to drive to Sacramento, and then doing the same drive back home the following day. This is something I had remind myself yesterday as we sped along I-5 for our second six-hour drive in 36 hours.
And now: School starts tomorrow and I’ve got a lot to do.
It was worth it.
“You don’t have to do that,” my daughter said with an annoyed tone of voice.
I pretended not to know what she was talking about, but she could not help but see me stretch my right foot forward, as if putting on the brake. Since I was in the passenger seat, she took my twitching as evidence that I was uncomfortable with that.
Not true. She’s actually an excellent driver. She had a lot of practice last summer, when I broke my right toe and enlisted her as my chauffeur, taking me to and from grocery shopping and doctors’ appointments. By the time she got her license, her dad and I felt comfortable letting her take the keys for short drives.
But driving me to LAX — and then driving all the way back home by herself — is a really big step. And as much as I trust her, after 40 years of my own driving, I cannot help certain reflexive movements when some car cuts in front of us a little too close for my own comfort.
“Maddy says her mom wouldn’t let her drive to the airport.”
Maddy is her cousin, who lives in the Sacramento area, and it did not surprise me to hear that my sister wouldn’t go for that. You need to take a busy freeway to get to their airport. We were making the trip to LAX on Sepulveda, the longest street in the city, which starts all the way up near our home in the north San Fernando Valley and ends in the South Bay, somewhere past the airport. This drive would be no different from meeting her friends on Ventura Boulevard — except that it’s longer. And winds through the Santa Monica Mountains. And is prone to very busy traffic.
Ok, so maybe there was a little reason to worry.
Today’s teen drivers are issued provisional licenses, which limit their driving privileges for a year while they gain experience on the road. I learned at this year’s Lifesaver Conference that this is key to a reduction in accidents by new drivers in states that have this kind of program. Her provisional license period will end in a couple of months, and them she will have fewer restrictions on driving passengers around. And in another few months, she will turn 18 and become a legal adult.
She lives in a big city with lots of big city things she will want to do, so I want her to know how to get around. We just need to take baby steps around it. And that’s why I had her take me to the airport about four hours ahead of my flight to Chicago. And when we got to LAX, we made an extra loop around the terminals so she would know how to get back on Sepulveda and on her way home.
“Don’t forget to text me when you’re home,” I told her as I got out of the car. She waved to me and I watched her drive away before I called my husband to let him know she got me to the airport safely.
I assured him that at this time of day, traffic was light.
“I don’t like this,” he said. “I need a Valium.” He was joking, but he sort of meant it.
Ninety minutes later, I got her text: “Home now.”
So now I can relax.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Time is a Tickin’ (Photo credit: im elsewhere)
I began this post on Monday morning.
I attempted to finish it on Tuesday afternoon, while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t get very far.
I spent yesterday working on my weekly podcast … and then trying to finish a freelance post that should have been done two weeks ago.
As you can see, time management is not my forte.
It wasn’t always this way. I was a productive, working member of society for a good twenty years — capable of managing projects on time and under budget. I expected that I would take motherhood in stride.
I was wrong.
Oh, there have been periods over the last 17 years when I thought I had everything under control. The gymnastics era was especially productive for me: Although I was forced to be out of the house for big blocks of time while she trained, the hours of waiting around forced my imagination to work overtime. That was when I did my best writing, without feeling guilty about all the housework that wasn’t getting done while I was with my kid at the gym.
She quit gymnastics four years ago, and I have been flailing about ever since. And lately, it’s gotten worse.
For some reason, everything now just takes me longer. I cannot accurately estimate the time I should devote to a task. Writing a blog post used to be a pretty simple matter, but now I find myself worrying about SEO practices, finding good outbound links, creating descriptive tags, selecting appropriate images, editing video if I shot it, tweeting out links and writing Facebook updates…
…and I am responsible for more than one blog.
I am not doing any of it well. And it’s frustrating.
I have worked all day today on a MOMocrats post that is really just a bunch of quotes from others. It should have taken about an hour to write. It’s not done.
Instead, I’ve been distracted by breaking news, correspondence, site administration, and the realization that BlogHer is in two weeks (which means I need to get my butt in action).
I signed up for the annual 5K Run (which in my case, will be a walk). And found two partners to do it with.
But for months now, I’ve done very little of the kind of writing that prompted me to attend BlogHer in the first place. And it makes me sad.
The other day on Facebook, my friend Julie posted an article about ADHD in girls. And reading it, I wondered if I might actually have an adult case of it: I feel perpetually scattered, I constantly lose things… and I’ve felt mentally fuzzy for the two months I’ve been off caffeine; a disconcerting feeling I’ve been unable to shake. Maybe the structure of my previous occupations kept me in check? And now that my daughter doesn’t even need me to drive her to school, I’ve lost all semblance of structure and so I keep drifting off-task and topic…
Or it could just be that I spend too much time on Facebook (an occupational hazard for the type of social media type stuff I have been engaged in now for years).
But maybe it’s just the fact that I don’t have a lot of time to sit and think. When everything is boom boom boom, deadline, deadline, get here and then go there and then the family is home and it’s time to shift to making dinner… It’s all too fast. And I miss those long, long, afternoons sitting in a hot gymnasium, feeling bored while my daughter trained.
I wrote some of my best posts that way.
I keep thinking of ways to try to build in some time to do as little as possible (and hopefully, get my creative juices flowing again). But I have too many obligations, too many deadlines, too many things I should be doing that never get done.
Time management #FAIL .
As your kids get older, the toys they want for their birthday get more expensive.
My daughter let me know that what she REALLY wants is a car. But she would be happy with the same present she has asked for at every gifting opportunity for the last couple of years: an iTunes card.
This is a relief, because shopping for her is no longer easy. She has her own taste in clothes, in music, in games, in entertainment.
“Next year, I will be an adult,” she tells us. As if we need to be reminded that she is all grown up. Almost all grown up. “Next year, I will be moving out of the house,” she says.
“To go to college.”
I will worry about that next year. This birthday snuck up on me. Maybe I have been in denial, but by the time I realized it was close, it was too late to order a custom card. She drove my car to school yesterday; so I did not get a chance to sneak out to the mall until late afternoon.
I used to be able to find plenty of good cards at the Hallmark store. Alas, while there were plenty of cards for daughters turning 16 and 18 and every year younger, I could find nothing for 17.
The humorous cards were all inappropriate; better suited for people heading toward middle and old age than a newly minted young adult.
There was a large section of elaborate cards with sounds and buttons and pop-ups. But they weren’t all that clever. I got the feeling that Hallmark is relying too much on gimmicks these days. They can charge more for a card that plays “I Feel Good.” (I bet they have to; I cannot imagine what the James Brown estate charges to license that.)
So I ended up in the aisle with the mushy cards, addressed to daughters, each one more sincere and flowery than the next. The kind of cards I never buy. And as I scoured the rack to find something that might sound a little like US, I started to cry. Yes, she was the most amazing child. Yes, we cannot imagine our lives without her. Yes, we are so proud of the young woman she has become.
I got the prettiest, simplest, most direct one of the bunch, held back the tears and got the hell out of the Hallmark store. And hope next year doesn’t come too quickly.
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