Ever since I realized I’d one day be “an adult,” I’ve spent a lot of time wondering and dreaming about that day. I was never that into being a teenager – didn’t like parties or cliques – and I wasn’t exactly living up my twenties in law school, legal internships, and 3 1/2 years of practicing law. Instead, I’ve sort of spent my life putting one foot in front of the other, doing all the things I “should” do… the things I “should” do to get back to my own childhood, this time as the adult.
I had a really great childhood. I’m not at all trying to brag, just to explain what I experienced and what I want to give my children. My parents had and still have a fantastic marriage. My mom used to say that she never fit in with the other neighborhood moms in part because they were always complaining about their husbands and she had nothing to complain about. “Your father is a good man,” she’d say. My mom’s loud, Chicago-Italian laugh used to mortify me but my dad said it made his heart twinkle. My mom was a fantastic mom – a little unconventional as a staunch feminist, but her work at a battered women’s shelter and her demanding of respect from me, my brother, and everyone else she ever met lent her an enormous amount of credibility in my young eyes and gave me the backbone I’m proud (and glad) to have today.
|A young couple|
|Helping Daddy clean the car.|
|Could Daddy have an ear infection?|
My mom mandated family sit-down dinners – every night, unless you were eating over at a friend’s house. Everybody had to come to the table, and if you tarried after she called “time to eat!!” … well, you didn’t tarry. She did the cooking but everyone else did the dishes and cleaning. Television was generally off, as a rule, though I think we made a few exceptions for Roseanne.
Family vacations were annual. We mainly continued my dad’s family’s three-generation tradition of going “Up North” every summer and renting a cabin in Minocqua, Wisconsin. We did Disney twice, went skiing in Colorado once, and went to Cancun once too. Nothing crazy, but my brother and I knew we were lucky to get to see these places. Now I know I’m lucky to have the memories.
|Cute baby brother|
|Dad took us sledding and built many snow forts… and taught us how to ride bikes and play chess… helped us with our math homework all the time… did karate with us for 6+ years… took me all over the state to weekend tournaments… took me to Minnesota a few times to visit colleges… and still takes me out to lunch when he can.|
So throughout adolescence and early adulthood I’ve been trying to “get back to” that. Maybe you have too. I want to be the mom in a good marriage, with family meals every night, making summertime and the Christmas season times of happiness and wonder for my children. Most of the time, it feels impossibly far off. We live in a 2-bedroom apartment and will probably be here until we’re 36… as a family of 4 or 5. We have one car and we owe my parents a ton of money for it. My husband is rarely home in time to have a family dinner (or any dinner), and he often goes weeks only seeing our son awake a few times, and only for about 20 minutes.
So I don’t feel like an adult yet… I feel like a grad student, 27 years old max, with a baby. The traditional markers of “adulthood” – or at least the ones I saw in my parents – haven’t yet been attained. But this morning, as I sat on the porch drinking iced coffee with my beautiful baby boy playing at my feet, it occurred to me: This is it. I’m the mom, finally, I’m the adult. And I’m doing everything in my power to give my son the same great childhood I had with my family. Earlier that morning we had read books, gone on a long walk on the bike trail, and stopped at the park to swing and crawl. Yesterday I roasted a bunch of broccoli for him and he and I had a “Mommy-Son Date” with Kelly and Henry, ice cream in Davis Square. We then went back to their place and splashed around in their plastic pool, and had a burrito dinner with Luke and little Miriam. We had a great time. We’re having a great time, and a great life.
Not all the pieces are in place yet… but I believe they one day will be. And until then I need to start realizing: “This is it.” And… it’s good. My son is happy and loving life… even if it’s sad to watch him look around for his Daddy and so often realize Daddy isn’t home. Daddy will be home more… someday. And as Daddy says, “The ironic thing is that by the time this is all over, we’ll be looking back at these years and wishing we were back here, young again, with our lives in front of us.” Yes, we will be. So this IS it… and it isn’t bad. Time to enjoy it more… summer’s here.
P.S. Credit Kelly with the iced coffee. Very easy to make: Simply brew up some high-quality coffee extra strong, add and dissolve sugar while it’s hot (and a few drops of vanilla or almond extract, if you feel like it) and chill. Serve with ice and add cream… top with whipped cream, if you’re me. Enjoy on a hot summer’s day.