Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Be Continued

I've developed the habit of writing while I'm waiting. I keep a stack of index cards in my bag--Moleskins too fine for the likes of my hackery--and free write either what I'm observing or things weighing on my mind. The Beav graduated from the eighth grade yesterday and I was actually early for something so I seized the opportunity to write.

The Beav has successfully graduated from many things like sucking his thumb, sippy cups, diapers, kindergarten, lying about taking baths and the fifth grade. Today is another graduation referred to as a "continuation". This is my fourth continuation and Wally cheated me out of an actual graduation because he didn't want to be "bothered" with the ceremony and "sitting around just to hear my name". I feel alien to this White Mommy Daddy world so gatherings at the boys' schools make me a bit anxious. I am seated alone and not bothering to save places for Ward and Alexis especially after last night's Saga Of The Pants.[Ward was supposed to buy Beav some new pants and didn't. I got to do it at 8:30 on Monday night after a very stressful twelve hour shift which evolved into thirteen hours. Needless to say the conversation we shared was colorful]

The people around me are dressed in a sort of upscale casual and one woman in particular takes this continuation thing seriously, donning a lovely geen and white halter dress more suitable for an evening wedding. I can't image what she wears to weddings. Sparkles? But it suits her, she of the blond carefully exercised set. The type I see talking in a quick clipped cadence on wee phones as they pause between the hearth breads and chocolates at Whole Foods. Her resplendent dress is a relief, I thought I was overdressed in my flowy black linen dress, the sort of thing worn on a patio sharing drinks and sailing stories with people named Mimi and Biff.

So many familiar and well known faces in the gym this afternoon; many acquaintances for the last two decades a few of them were even friends. But having fallen out of their orbit they have forgotten me. Pity this, I'm a lot of fun to know and interesting company. Many of the mothers are easily ten or more years younger and this is probably their second big milestone with their kids. Most of us are watching from the jaded seat of having done this a few times before and know the real pay off will be when they graduate from high school.

I recognized one mom of a boy Beav played with when they were kindergartners. I still remember where I was standing and what I was doing when she called to tell me her boy was no longer allowed to play with Beav at my house. My first conclusion was she had heard via the grapevine I was lesbian. She gave me a self-righteous speech about how she didn't want Little Darling playing at a divorcee's house in the city. I was polite and gave her a canned speech about how we would miss Crown Prince. I wanted to ask if she was she afraid the ennui, dissatisfaction and final despair I experienced would jump onto her boy like a cold germ and then rub off on her hands as she scrubbed away the wretched city dirt after his playdate? Or was she already infected and couldn't risk further exposure in an effort to keep all the bad stuff dormant? "Is denying you are unhappy easier than admitting failure like I did?" Most of my days as a young mother were marked by unhappiness, frustration and helplessness. Years ago, Dear Abby poised the question "if you had to do it all over again, would you have children?" My resounding answer would be no. I have too much baggage to visit on defenseless children and I am far too selfish to be a good mother.

But this particular emotional mud puddle won't keep me from milestones like a Continuation. My regret and insecurity won't stop me from feeling joy and pride when Beav's name is called as an honor student. Beav is my pay back for watching the heart wrenching struggle and defeats his brother experienced in school. Regret doesn't prevent me from feeling cheated I'm not watching Wally walk across the stage after spending so many years symbolically dragging him through school.

Milestones like this lighten my dark and heavy heart because I have succeeded in continuing as a mother when so many days I just wanted to quit. The darkness doesn't dampen the joy I feel when one or the other succeeds at something, nor does it quiet worry when I see them making decisions I perceive as ruinous. Last week, Wally proved I had done something right. Nestled in the thorns of all of my bad parenting he has found his path . Wally made a life altering decision completely independently from me or his father. Isn't this what we ultimately want for our children the second they leave our bodies? Isn't independence the goal? But when I heard he had stepped away from the Navy and joined the Army I was angry. Over the thunder of my helicopter blades snapping the air as I lectured about commitment and seeing things through. Now I can see the root of my anger rests solely in not being consulted. My eldest is continuing without me. As it should be.

Image by Blake Flynn

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