Sand, Water, Repeat

Nearly two weeks ago now, the boys and I tagged along with the hubby to see the final space shuttle launch. The hubby was covering it for work and had prime viewing from the Kennedy Space Center press site. We, however, stuck close to our hotel to avoid the crowds and watched from a Cracker Barrel parking lot about 15 miles west of the launch pad. Gotta say, it was still awesome, inspiring and breathtaking. I’m so glad that we did it and that the boys can say they were there for such an historic moment.

One of the hubby’s pictures of liftoff from KSC.

Since we were already in Florida, we took the opportunity to spend a few days at the beach after the launch. Once we had lugged all the gear two kids and two adults appear to need for a few hours of fun in the surf and set up the sun tent and applied all the sunscreen, we had a blast. At one point, I simply leaned back on my elbows, my toes digging down into the warm, sun baked sand and watched.
I watched as my boys were digging moats, building roads, running in the surf, peering in crab holes, examining shells. There was endless entertainment and all they had at their disposal was sand, water, a shovel, a bucket and their parents. I didn’t hear “I want to go home,” “I’m bored,” “what can I dooooo?” or the killer, “when can I watch TV?” These thoughts never crossed their minds. They were in love and having a blast.
My dad and his six siblings, grew up in a small New England mill town. My grandfather repaired sewing machines. Certainly he wasn’t pulling in the big bucks and providing for seven children couldn’t have been easy. And yet my grandparents had a “place” on Martha’s Vineyard. Granted this place was not much more than a shack and didn’t have hot water, but my aunts and uncles all have fond memories of summers on the island.
As a mom of two active boys, now I get it. I get why my grandmother would have packed up a summer’s worth of stuff, ridden a ferry and committed to caring for seven kids alone with only her husband as back-up on the weekends for the long stretch of summer. Outside play all day, tired bodies in bed at night, kids using their imaginations to create fun, making new friends, appreciating the simple, yet majestic, aspects of nature.
I wish that little shack was still in the family. I wish I could pitch a tent on a tiny square of its yard and live the summer in a state of hazy, salty glee with my kids. I wish my toes were still in the sand.
In the absence of a small fortune to buy some beach front property, I’ll just have to settle for planning another trip to the shore in a few months.

Raising Men

With two boys and a husband, I am most certainly outnumbered in this house. It’s not usually a big deal – trucks and Legos are a-okay with me, getting dirty is no big deal and not having to buy into or struggle against the princess thing is a total plus.

There are some issues, of course, mostly related to privacy. The Y family changing room is a bit of a challenge after pool time and women’s public restrooms are nearing awkward as Peanut closes in on 5.
I am also conscious of stereotypes, particularly when it comes to reading and the creative arts. I don’t want my boys to ever hear that it’s okay that he doesn’t try in English because reading is just not a guy thing. Instead, I do my best to encourage books and storytelling, the craft cabinet is always available to Peanut and no task or job has ever been labeled just for boys or girls in this house.
Surprisingly, the toy catalogs that arrived at Christmas time posed a bit more of a challenge. The traditionally labeled boy and girl toys were designated by blue or pink tabs on the page layout. Sure, most boys would probably pick a Thomas toy over a Barbie doll, but the play kitchens or building sets? Who is to say that a boy can’t whip up some pretend cookies or that a girl can’t design a fabulous house out of an erector set? I hated Peanut flipping over to the play house pages and saying “That kitchen is a girl’s toy. See, it’s on the pink page.” That took some explaining, but the fact of the matter is I can’t monitor every message that enters his world.
Peanut is still at that happy age when all things are equal, when society and history and cultural influences haven’t colored his thoughts about the opposite sex or skin pigmentation. I want him to hold onto that as long as possible, to see the soul, the good, the person and not the trappings of a society that so often decides who can be good enough. I struggle with this when he says things like, “Daddy’s work and mommy’s stay home” simply because that is what I’m doing now. We talk a lot about mommy “working” on the computer (when I’m actually writing, not when I’m sneaking a Facebook status). The pressure of raising future men that will respect women as equals in their classrooms, relationships and workplaces is real to me.
So earlier this week, we watched the USA take on France in the World Cup. He cheered, he chanted USA, he was thrilled that we won. Today, we sat down as a family to watch the finals. We talked about how fast the women were. How much time they must practice. How hard they were playing. We cheered them on and were disappointed when they came up short.
Although it was a heartbreaking loss, for a moment, the US was focused on women’s achievements, and we weren’t surprised to be doing so. We marveled at their skill, their physicality, their teamwork. The game was remarkably respectful with fantastic sportsmanship on both sides and little evidence of personal ego. It was a joy to watch.
Yes, I am glad that girls around the country have strong, female, athlete role models to look up to. I just hope that it’s okay if my boys look up to you, too.

Self Defined

I am many things to many people. On the top layer I am wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, friend. I have been worker, commuter, traveler, producer, sales person, account manager, colleague. In the minutia I am dishwasher, laundress, chauffeur, dresser, diaper changer, schedule wrangler, maid, chef, errand runner, UNO dealer, night-night kisser.

The word that defines me the most, the me me, the inside dreamer soul me is the word I am most unlikely to utter. The word that has whispered to me in the dark since I was seven years old. The word that has most inspired, scared, thrilled me. It is the word I have been holding onto since I stopped working. The word that lingers, tempts and pulls me forward through the day-to-day drudgery that often makes up the stay at home mom life.
I worry that I sometimes put too much pressure on the word. That I’ve put all my faith in my future accomplishments on it. That somehow I use it to give my ego a crutch at this time in my life when I don’t have the external, third party career successes to provide that self-esteem boost.
And then, I fell into a conversation with a stranger at the nail salon as we both waited for our pedicures to dry, our feet propped under the fan bar. She, too, has two boys, now 33 and 36. She asked if I worked. We joked about boys and their energy and the life of a stay at home mom. She admitted how going back part time when her youngest started kindergarten was a life saver for her. And then, I took a deep, conscious breath and said it. Out loud. I tried it on and owned it. For 10 minutes. To a stranger. And the result was a fascinating conversation that buoyed me for the rest of the day.
I am a writer.
It is the truth. It is a dream. It is me.