My Convertible Life

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mother's Day Gifts

It was the verbal equivalent of the old yawn and stretch maneuver that you see a teen-age boy use in 1950s movies to inconspicuously put his arm around a girl’s shoulder.

“So… mom… What’s your favorite breakfast?” he asked casually on Tuesday night. “I mean, if you didn’t have to make it.”

When I started to tell Junius my preferences -- two eggs over medium, bacon, fruit, maybe half an English muffin -- he asked me if I could write it down. You know, casually.

"No," I replied with a smile. "But you can."

The conversation continued as he carefully wrote down my breakfast menu, then moved on to asking about my favorite restaurants for dinner. You know, just because, no reason. Not like Mother's Day is coming up or anything.

When he finished writing, he folded the paper in half, turned away from me to write "Mothers day" with three underlines on the outside and took the page upstairs.

It was about the cutest conversation I've had with my son in a long time. Even if he doesn't manage to use the list (although I suspect my lovely husband will help make it happen), watching him delight in his sneaky strategy to be nice to me was a gift in itself.

For those of you wondering what to get your mom (or the mother of your children) to celebrate her day on Sunday, here's my suggestion: Think luxury.

I don't mean a luxury automobile or a luxury vacation (although if that's within your budget, those are totally good options). Instead, think of the little luxuries that mom wishes she had time/money for and give her the means to enjoy them -- even if that little luxury is her favorite homemade breakfast or just a quiet hour alone in the hammock with a good book and iced cocktail.

But if you really want to be impressive, here are my suggestions of everyday luxuries I'd love to have in my weekly or monthly budget -- and I'm betting lots of other moms would, too:
  1. Housekeeper: There's nothing better than coming home to a clean house when you didn't have to do any of the work. Okay, maybe coming home to a clean house where the maid service didn't turn on your gas fireplace and leave it burning when they left the house hours earlier -- but that's a different story. Anywho, even if it were just an occasional deep clean, it's always nice to enjoy your house without having to think about the mess.
  2. Car wash: I hate a dirty car. And with two kids (plus the occasional friend) in the back seat every day, there’s no way to keep all the dirt on the outside. Between the raisins and the tissues and the string cheese wrappers and the leaves and the mud and… well, it’s gross back there. Plus all this springtime pollen makes a mess of the outside, too. A clean car just feels more civilized.
  3. Massage: Even when things are going well, life can be stressful and exhausting. Between keeping up a more regular exercise schedule, working at a desk and generally chasing my children around, I’d love an hour – okay, maybe 90 minutes – to close my eyes, listen to soothing (if a little cheesy) nature-sounds music and let go of the stress. 
  4. Mani/pedi: I love a pretty polish (especially on my toes), but this one isn’t really about having colorful nails. It’s more about having healthy-looking (and feeling) hands and feet. Again, between the exercising and the dish-washing, my extremities get a little rough. And it’s just so nice to be taken care of by someone who doesn’t need anything from me. 
  5. Haircut: If you have short hair, you know that you really need to get it cut at least every six weeks. I try to stretch it to seven or eight weeks to conserve cash, but I always hate my hair that last week or two. If money and scheduling were no object, I’d get a haircut once a month. That way it always looks fresh – and I’d look like I just stepped out of a salon more often.
  6. Fresh flowers: Even if my house isn't really clean, it looks cleaner if there are fresh flowers by the front door and on the dining room table. It's like I can't even see the piles on the counter or the dishes in the sink when there's a vase of white hydrangeas in view. Shoes scattered around the foyer seem to fade away if I'm greeted by a wildflower bouquet. They don't have to be formal or fancy, just fresh. 
Let us know what's on your little luxuries list... leave a note in the comments.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

It's a Girl

This post is from my piece at last year's Listen to Your Mother show in Raleigh. You can watch me here, but I realized I never posted the text. Excited to go see this year's show tonight as an audience member!

When she’s older, my daughter will probably hate me for saying this, or even thinking it. But I didn’t want to have a girl.

My son was about to turn two that Father’s Day morning when I peed on the stick and realized we were going to have another baby. Junius was finally starting to sleep more at night. Life was just beginning to feel manageable again. While I was excited to be pregnant, I was equally overwhelmed by the idea of beginning it all again.

As the weeks went by, my second pregnancy mirrored the first. I was tired, but never sick and only occasionally queasy. Girth increased steadily with weight, matching the first pregnancy pound for pound and inch for inch week by week.

This baby is a boy, I thought -- just like the first. If it were a girl, I would know. I would feel different and I would be vomiting. But everything was the same and I was relieved.

I imagined we would become “Cyndi and the boys.” Our sons would be buddies and build LEGOS and play basketball. My husband would take them camping and fishing on weekends while I stayed home and went for pedicures and read books. Yes, they might be loud or messy, but it would be worth it.

It’s the American way: boys love their mamas. They would love me, cherish me and never, ever turn on me.

Because ladies, let’s be honest. We save the really bad shit for our mamas.

I wasn’t a crazy or rebellious kid. I have always had a good relationship with both of my parents. But in my teen years, something changed. I was mean to my mother and treated her in ways that I never would my father. Even when I wasn’t upset with my mom, I still held back my disaster meltdown moments until she was the only one around to deal with me.

The best of daughters seem to go through rough times with their mothers. And that’s the good ones. The rest wind up hating their moms, vowing never to be like them, and rolling their eyes and yelling obscenities at them.

So when the ultrasound revealed that this new baby was a girl? I was terrified.

And I hated myself for it.

I was supposed to be excited. A son AND a daughter. One of each! Isn’t that what everyone wants? Slugs and snails meets sugar and spice. The perfect family.

Except that I wanted a matched set. Wouldn’t it be so much easier -- and so much less frightening -- to have another boy? I was getting good at being a boy mama. Starting over with a newborn was scary enough without the specter of one day having to share my house with a hormonal pre-teen girl.

For two weeks, my husband and I didn’t tell anyone we’d found out it was a girl -- not even our parents or our son. We practiced at home saying “she” and “her” instead of “it” and “the baby.” We talked about girl names. We thought about friends who had painted nurseries pink in preparation, only to discover on birth day that their baby had been hiding his little boy parts when the ultrasound tech was looking. Maybe the ultrasound was wrong?

Of course it wasn’t wrong. Our baby girl arrived as scheduled on Feb. 22, 2008, beautiful and round and perfect.

It turns out that I was wrong about not wanting a daughter. The last months of my pregnancy gave me time to get used to the idea. When she was born, I already knew her -- and I loved her immediately. Five years later, Pippi is sweet and funny and crazy smart. She sings and dances constantly through each day, strutting her stuff in pink cowgirl boots and mismatched outfits. She possesses a powerful confidence at age five that will hopefully carry her far in life.

But it also turns out that I was kind of right to be afraid. Pippi may only be five, but she’s already giving me a run for my money. She saves her worst behavior for me and her best for her teachers. She tells lies and tests limits and pushes my buttons in ways that make me grind my teeth and bang my head into my hands. She is a Daddy’s Girl -- apparently it takes one to make one -- and she already seems to know that she can be meaner to me than she treats him.

She is the best and worst of having a daughter. And I am lucky to have made her.

So I try hard to give her the most important things my mother has always given me. A patient ear. A loving heart. A shoulder to cry on. And a wonderful father for the many times ahead when she doesn’t want any of those things from me.