Sunday, November 24, 2013

Like It or Not

I’m lucky that I’m a pretty good sport about sharing with my ex-husband, since taking turns to be with the kids is how we divorced parents roll.  My crew went to their dad’s the same nights each week until they left for college and, to this day (15 years after we separated), the plan to be with me one year and their dad the next for Thanksgiving dinner remains in effect.

I realize that sharing the kids for the holidays is the only fair thing to do, but I have to admit that there are times I just don’t want to do that.  What gets me is not the compromise of the situation (well, maybe somewhat—after all, I AM the mom!) but rather the more complex matter of not feeling whole without my kids. The emotions are further complicated when the gathering includes my niece and nephew, who I am certain will ask where their cousins are when I walk in to my brother’s house on Thursday. 

Since this is the holiday to give thanks, I suppose I should just man up and be grateful that I get to spend every other year with them while we stuff our faces with turkey and not focus on the years I don’t get to look at them across the table.

This is most likely just temporary anyway, as they will have families of their own at some point and then even more parents to please and add to the holiday rotation, unless they just buck the system and start their own traditions at home which cannot possibly include everyone anyway.  I will be ahead of the game at that time, as parents of intact families won’t be comfortable with sharing their kids at all, and I’ll be a pro, at least in theory.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hanukkah Present

“What would you like for Hanukkah?” my husband asked me.

Feeling very fortunate that he’d pose the question, I thought about my list.  I told him I’d get back to him once I narrowed it down, as I had a lot of ideas to weed through:      

I want to live in a world where people are nice to each other; where our kids go to school and play outside in a happy, safe environment; where men and women talk out their differences instead of hurt one another in acts of senseless gun and domestic violence, terrorism or war; where cures for medical conditions are achievable; where natural disasters lead to research, not death or financial ruin; where people don’t go to bed hungry; where variety of color, religion and sexual preference are celebrated, not denounced; and so on.

But when he inquired again, since the holiday is right around the corner and I hadn’t given him an answer yet, I knew I had to provide something for him to work with. 

So, I told him there’s a really pretty necklace I saw…

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Beyond the Workout

I used to be an avid gym-goer, but after a fairly lengthy hiatus, I had to be forced to get back into the routine. I’m happy to report that not only do I not mind it these days, but I’d go so far as to say that I’m starting to savor the experience again, for several reasons that never came to mind before I turned the Big 5-0. 

Back then, I incorporated my workouts into my day just because my girlfriend Karen, who was a new personal fitness trainer at the time, told me I had to do something to reverse the disturbing aftermath of my 3 C-sections.  It was only when my ex-husband and I separated that this schedule with my friend Rosanne came to a halt, as I was no longer able to go to the gym at 5 a.m.

Today—just to be clear—I would never ever ever get up at 5 a.m. to go anywhere unless I absolutely had no choice, least of all the gym.  I hate to admit it but without anyone pushing me along, I’ve had to look beyond the value of the workout itself to give me the momentum to get there at all. While this may seem like a rather skewed and perhaps negative approach to getting in shape, let me assure you it has produced positive results.  

Here’re the reasons I’ve come up with that support why a gym commitment serves me well, separate from the obvious benefits of exercising:  It’s one hour that 1) – I’m not snacking on stuff; 2 – Everyone I see isn’t obsessing over their electronic gadgets as they do freely almost everywhere else and, although I am guilty of this myself, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves; 3) – All generations and cultures are working toward the same goal; 4) – I’m regularly inspired by the younger set, which really knows how to work their workouts.     

I see young women, for example, displaying all sorts of fancy maneuvers on the big fitness ball, when it took me months to learn to sit on it without falling over.  I see them doing repetition after repetition of creative and strenuous exercises I could never have achieved let alone conceptualized, when in contrast I generally move from one machine to the next and stop at whim vs. a calculated end point.  I see them  focused on their own progress, not looking around for extraneous reasons to justify fitting this designated time into their busy schedules.   

So while at this point in my life I’ve left behind the intensity of the physical challenge, I’m able to appreciate the compelling benefits of one hour at Planet Fitness a few times a week, even if it is unrelated to my working up a sweat.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Story Time

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into visiting my mom. I’m always equipped with the necessities—groceries, household goods, questions about magazine subscriptions and requests for donations—as well as fun stuff, which is comprised of at least two components:  flowers because she loves them and stories about her grandkids because I think she loves them (the kids of course but the stories too). 

On my weekly drive to her apartment, I generally review a running list of what’s occurred with the kids since the last time I saw her so that I can relay the update in as entertaining a manner as possible.  The pattern is the same:  we kiss hello, she assesses the beauty of the flowers in my arms—always remarking most favorably to sunflowers—I sit down at her kitchen table, she asks what’s new, and off I go.  If my plan is to stay for a short time, I’ll give a brief overview; if I have the afternoon free, I can cram in a lot of detail.  My mom is a most captive audience, glued to my words as if I’m narrating one of the books she can’t put down, seemingly absorbed in the trials and tribulations of everybody’s lives. 

A couple weeks ago after a particularly spirited run-down of events, I had to interrupt story-time for a drink of water because I was so parched.  Prepared to continue where I left off, I stopped in my tracks after my mom, who generally doesn’t comment unless I press her to respond, took the pause as an opportunity to say, without prompting of any kind, “You sure have a lot of issues with your kids.” 

On those rare occasions when my mom does make a statement, her words hit me like a ton of bricks.  My first reaction was “Issues?”  I thought I was sharing amusing anecdotes; my second reaction was to strike back and say, “You think MY kids have a lot of issues?  How about YOUR kids?” but then I realized I’d be talking about myself too, so I abided by my third reaction, which was to say nothing.  That said, I gave a lot of thought to her statement for days to come, and it is that one line which prompted today’s blog post.

Upon the 100th recall of that sentence, I realized that, personalities aside—and differing opinions of what constitutes an “issue”—my mom’s experience of being a parent of adult kids is entirely different from my own experience of being a parent of adult kids.  When I was in my 20s, a 5- or 10-minute phone chat between my mom and me once a week was the norm.  Only major developments like pregnancy, divorce, a tragedy or disheartening election results caused more frequent dialogue and even those were limited, especially once I moved to Cherry Hill and landline calls to Philadelphia were “long-distance,” with each minute racking up what could become a hefty bill.  I was, in essence, on my own the very second I left the cocoon of my childhood home, feeling my way through life with very little parental assistance.  My mom hadn’t been privy to my “issues” for many years, as the conduits for free-flowing conversation weren’t in place.  Technology as we know it hadn’t arrived.

Today’s advances—text messages, email, Facebook, Skype and more—may foster closer relationships between the generations as we can interact to our hearts’ content, but is all this communication good for our kids?  Does it help or hinder the ultimate goal of fostering responsible, independent adults?