Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Year Down

He wasn’t even home seven hours and he was in trouble with his sister. He pulled into the driveway at 12:55 a.m. and by 7:20 a.m. the next morning, although still in bed, their paths never crossing, he was on her black list. He had eaten the last Pop Tart!

He has returned. My first born, the big brother, the only son, is once again home with us. We had survived his first year of college! Now, let’s see if we survive his first summer home!

With his arrival comes not only bags of clothing, faded sheets, ripped towels, torn blankets, old (and new?) electronic equipment and dirty laundry, but also a host of issues to deal with – negotiating a curfew, finding a job, sharing household responsibilities.

It’s an adjustment for everyone. We have to be quiet in the morning, when the girls are getting up and ready for school (a fact he loves to remind them of on a daily basis!) and he has to realize he is no longer living in a dorm with 50 noisy teenagers.

His first night home, my husband and I walked the dogs, locked up the house, turned off the lights, and went to bed in time to catch the 10:00 news – a typical night in our house.

Much to our horror, he yelled from his room, “I’m heading over to a friend’s house at 10:30!”

I, of course, responded, “You’re kidding, right?” (He wasn’t.)

I remember those days. I remember being annoyed at my parents when I would wander out of my room on a Friday night at 10:00 to go out, and the chain would be on the door and the outside lights would be off.

“They have got to be kidding,” I thought. “Don’t they know no one goes out before 10:00?”

Now, if I am still awake for Seinfeld at 11:00, I think I’m doing well.

We’ve forgotten some things: how much food he eats, how much milk he drinks, and how loud he is. He has forgotten some things: house rules - make your bed, pick up your clothes, and leave some food for the rest of us!

But we're coping. He's got a job. We're leaving the lights on later. And he's learned not to eat the last Pop Tart.

He’s happy to be home – there is comfort in familiarity. And, although my shopping bill has doubled, laundry has increased and sleep has decreased – I wouldn’t trade it for anything! He’s home, we're all together again, and I’m happy!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thanks Mom!

Someone asked me recently what I would like to be thanked for on Mother’s Day. What things do I do that seem to go unnoticed or unappreciated?

I thought about it for a few seconds, and came up with a list of about a dozen things I felt my family should thank me for: changing diapers, doing their laundry, cleaning their closets, shopping for school supplies, attending countless (endless) recitals, killing bugs, hosting sleepovers – you get the point.

But that seemed too easy, too mundane, so I started to think of what I would thank my mom for, if she was still alive. And, as my daughters came home from school and told me about their days, it came to me.

It wasn’t any one specific task that my mom performed, rather it was something she did day after day, hour after hour.

“Mom,” I would say, “thank you for listening!”

Thank you for listening to the same stories over, and over, and over again. (There are six of us. Imagine how many “That teacher is so unfair” complaints she had to hear.)

Thank you for concentrating on me and making me feel like I was your favorite. (Which I clearly was, no matter what my brothers and sisters say.)

Thank you for not rolling your eyes and saying I told you so. (We all know how hard that is!)

Thank you for listening and really hearing me. (Even when I wasn’t sure what I was saying.)

Thank you for taking the time to hear about my day, even when you had dinner to make, laundry to fold and ironing to do. (Did I mention that there were six of us?)

It isn't always easy to sit still and really listen to our children. There are so many distractions in our lives today – e-mails to answer, meetings to attend, carpools to drive - which can pull us away, physically and mentally.

“The first duty of love is to listen.” (Paul Tillich) I have posted this quote on my refrigerator, hoping it will inspire me to stop and listen when my children speak.

I know many parents drive their children to school just to spend time with them, to listen to them. When I had just one child, I thought that was silly. Now, I think it’s brilliant. (Just make sure you unplug and turn off all electronic devices.)

One of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen, summed it up for me in three short sentences: “I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.”

To all the mothers I know, Happy Mother’s Day! Congratulations for showing up and listening, every day, in good times and bad.

And Mom, thank you for listening, then, and now!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hello! My Name Is...

My given name is Kathleen. I have no middle name, much to my children’s amazement. (I tell them that I was the sixth child and my mom had run out of ideas by then!)

Growing up, everyone called me Katie.

There were some exceptions. The nuns called me Kathleen – no nicknames for them. And of course my mother called me Kathleen, but only when I was in trouble. Some teachers tried to shorten Kathleen to Kathy, thinking they would be nice. (They only did that once. When I didn’t answer, they caught on.)

Other than that, from grades 1-12, through grade school and high school, I was Katie. This was before the name became so popular. I was pretty much the only Katie around and I was very happy about that.

Round about college, I decided I wanted to be a journalist, and journalists just couldn’t be called Katie. Too cute, I decided.

I then renamed myself Kate. (Easy to do when no one knows you.) Kate sounded serious and no-nonsense.

And for 20 some years, I’ve been Kate. It’s served me well, through college, work, motherhood, new neighbors and friends, PTO meetings and teacher conferences.

Once in a while, I will get a call from an old friend. I laugh when my daughter hands me the phone with a bewildered look and says, “They want to talk to Katie?!”

Well, I’m thinking it’s about time for another change. I’ve matured (or at least I am trying to). Kathleen is calling to me. (I know my mother is up in heaven saying, “I told you one day you would love your name.”)

I’m just not quite sure how to go about introducing this name change. I am not moving, nor am I meeting new people. My friends are the same. I can just imagine the eye-rolling that will go on when I say, “I want to be called Kathleen from now on.”

“Who does she think she is?” they will whisper.

To which I will answer, “Kathleen”

That may work!