50 Stages of Motherhood

There is a progression of motherhood…a timeline we all follow. Some of us go through kicking and screaming, while others cheer louder with each smidge of progress towards the finish line.

Our children inch closer to adulthood, while we apparently inch closer to the floor.

I have lost 3/4 of an inch in height since my son left for college.

And with each new stage, each startling new trick or terrifying new skill we adjust our mothering to suit it.

  • He climbs trees? We add the Urgent Care Center to our speed dial.
  • Projectile vomiting? Nothing a Swiffer, rubber gloves and a few paper towels can’t handle.
  • He wants to dress himself? We buy all red, white and blue clothing so that he will always look patriotic even when he isn’t quite matching.
  • He wants to get his Driver’s License? We increase our blood pressure meds and buy a set of rosary beads.
  • He wants to live off-campus? We write rent checks and hope he has a decent meal now and then.

I have been through so many stages of motherhood with my college kid, I have lost count. There are days when I can barely remember those first few stages, the why-isn’t-he-sleeping-through-the-night stage or the just-stop-teething-already stage.

Some were particularly ugly.

But woven together, stacked one on top of the other year after year these stages make up the mother I am today. It’s too late to change any of the things we went through. No do-overs, no returns, no refunds and no time machine travel.

Would I have done anything differently? I’m not sure I even know that answer.

I am faced with the dilemma that I am not done mothering, not quite yet.

But there are days when I want to be done.

See, the problem with mothering is that you are never really finished. It’s not that I didn’t know this… I just didn’t understand.

Grown-up kids need parents too.

And in time, years from now, in those last stages of motherhood, I will need my kids more than they will need me.

They will finally be living their own lives as adults, possibly raising families of their own. And I will be able to relax and know that I did the very best job I could have done. I passed the final exam, graduated. Finished the last stage.

But I am pretty sure I will still find a way to keep on worrying.

 

This post originally ran on Moonfrye

May Memories

jasmine flowerThey say that a scent has the ability to trigger a memory, to take you back to a time in the past, no matter how distant. A friend claims the mere scent of a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove reminds her of her Italian grandmother’s house. The logical part of my brain argues that this is silly, that these people are making these connections, but the scent couldn’t possibly be contributing.

I didn’t believe them until I smelled the jasmine.

I was at that point in pregnancy when the doctor wanted to see me every week. Same time, same day… just checking, weighing, measuring and waiting. I was already on maternity leave, spending my time lunching with friends and getting everything ready for my first baby.

The walkway from the parking lot to my doctor’s office was planted heavily with jasmine, and the soft, sweet scent became a favorite.

And that time in my life was magical. I had no idea what motherhood would bring, what challenges we would face or how incredible the joy would be. I didn’t even know if the baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl.

I just knew everything would be OK. I had this serene, calm feeling each time I walked past the jasmine, my hand resting on my stomach out of habit. Baby kicks, reminding me that he was there.

And that everything would be OK.

And now each May, when the calendar has barely folded over from April, I catch slight whiffs of it as I walk through shopping areas or past a neighbor’s house. I immediately think of my son — of the happy, freckle-faced boy who has morphed into a tall young man with a scruffy face and a morning coffee habit.

And I have realized that nineteen years later, I still have no idea what motherhood will bring in the future, much like when I wandered each week into the doctor’s office, past the jasmine. One of the cruelest facts about motherhood is that you are never truly done with the mothering, no matter how well you handled the terrible-twos or potty-training. Your services are always needed, and usually in a way you hadn’t anticipated.

Yesterday I caught it as I walked out of the store, rushing between errands and eager to get back home.

The scent of jasmine.

No baby kicks this time.

But I think everything will be OK.

All I want for Christmas is at Neiman Marcus

When I was a kid, Christmas was all about me. Starting each November, I would carefully turn down page corners in the huge Sears catalogue and circle my must-haves with a marker. Then I would carefully craft my annual letter to the portly man in the red suit, reminding him of all the good deeds I had accomplished that year. There may have been embellishing or a few little white lies, but he always came through.

I miss those days. Sure, running the whole Santa gig is awesome when your kids are young, but I’ve been Santa’s Helper for 19 years now.

It’s my turn. The Neiman Marcus Christmas Book has arrived.

Dear Santa,

It’s been a long time since I last wrote to you, but I’m sure you will remember me. I was the one who was always kind and caring to her little brother, even though he was always getting into my stuff. I always did what I was told, made my bed, said my prayers and did my homework. That’s how I remember it, anyway. Except that one time when I cut my own hair.

I’ve been a mom for more years than I can count now, Santa. I don’t like to brag, but I’m an amazing mom. Except for those times I had to call 911, locked a newborn baby in the car, burned a few dinners, ran out of diapers, said things my mother would never have said, fed small children Doritos and rice for dinner, cried over Algebra homework and lost my cool at Target I really rock this job. So I am sure you can see why I deserve some swag under the tree that’s just for me.

Jimmy Choo Biker Fox Fur and Floral Suede Shoulder Bag ($5,595)

A dramatic play of texture and color, this Jimmy Choo Biker fur bag is for far more than holding your things—it will finish any ensemble with extravagance.

If I had this bag, my status would instantly be raised from simply Soccer Mom to Uber-Chic and Trendy Mom. My yoga pants and ratty Old Navy sweatshirt would suddenly be extravagant. With all that thick fox fur I might even be able to trick my daughter into thinking this is an actual puppy, which is a win-win for me. Lined in leather, so those random pieces of chewed gum and sticky used tissues will be a breeze to remove.

Sofia Cashmere Diamond Cable Knit Cashmere Throw ($1,150)

These posh throws are one warming trend that will never go out of season.

I really need one of these, Santa. I need time on the couch with my remote control, a strong cup of coffee, a pound or so of peanut brittle and a cashmere throw. Maybe even two of them, so I can cover those stains where I spilled my wine and the dog threw up. As an extra bonus, this throw could double for an outfit when the UPS man comes to the door and I need to cover my yoga pants. See how beautiful and relaxed the woman in the picture looks? Totally me.

Michael Kors Leather-Bodice dress ($3,995)

Michael Kors applies true Yankee sensibility to his tweeds, plaids, lace, and leather. All-American sportswear with an English accent!

Well, there you go — I want to be all English-y and have people think I am sophisticated when I pop into Target for laundry soap or drag
the dog to the vet to have her anal glands expressed. And leather? So sexy, especially on someone my age because it wrinkles in a pattern just like my skin. The skirt is made from angora, wool and cashgora which I am pretty sure is some endangered species of mouse found only on mountain tops in Tibet. The model looks like she just stepped on a Lego, so she obviously knows my life. I would totally rock this dress.

Jean Paul Gaultier Lace-Mesh Long-Sleeve Dress ($395)

The only thing better than a fitted dress is our exclusive lace-embellished Jean Paul Gaultier sheath in a bright, sprightly emerald hue.

I want to be bright and sprightly too — like I feel when the holiday break ends and I drop the kids off at school. What this dress lacks in coverage, it makes up for in versatility. The meshy fabric would be great for attracting dust and dog hair. Why buy just a dress when I can have a shirt,
nightgown and dust rag all in one?

Heritage Hen Farm Beau coop ($100,000)

Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined.

Poshest hen house? This place rocks! Forget the hens — this is going to be my own little mommy hideaway. It has a living room, library, an elegant chandelier and a broody room — I have no idea what that is, but I think I need one at least once a month. Fold your own laundry people — mommy’s tending her flock of magazines and martinis.

Teardrop Tailgate trailer ($150,000)

A chorus of cheers rings out the minute you pull up. Tailgating will never be the same now that your Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer is on the scene. You park, open the hatch, and slide out the bar—cocktails anyone?

I have to admit it — I am not the best school volunteer/homeroom lice checker/team mom/PTA coordinator. At best I can volunteer to bring juice boxes or send a check for the field trip. With this awesome trailer, I could erase years of bad karma with the uber-reliable room moms! Hook it up to the trailer hitch on my gas-guzzling SUV and haul it to the PTA meeting. Instantly I become the bestest, funnest and most in-demand mommy
on the playground. Extra bonus points if I can play old episodes of Parenthood on the flat screen TV.

Tom Ford Beauty Exclusive 16 Color Nail Set ($480)

Tom Ford Beauty debuts a wardrobe of high-performance polishes, offering mega-watt shine, while staying true to color. The extra-amplified gloss and shine nail lacquer — in a wardrobe of shades, from alluring brights to chic neutrals — lets you express your mood and complete your look.

Who knew that all I really needed was a coat of expensive nail polish? I thought my Old Navy jeans were a “look” but hey, why not take things to the next level? With so many interesting colors I might have to have the kids walk home from school because I am busy doing my nails — in my hen house. I am especially enamored of the colors all moms should recognize: Naked, Fever Pink, Coral Blame, Bordeaux Lust and Bitter Bitch. Seriously, I am not making these up.

Tweezerman Crystal Tweezer and Stand ($200)

Add some glamour to your bathroom and a little dazzle to your brow beauty routine with this Luxe Edition of Tweezerman’s award-winning Slant.

I need these tweezers, and not just because they are beautiful and sparkly. My rusty old tweezers have seen one too many gray eyebrow hair or splinter-in-the-foot and I am only slightly exaggerating when I say the whole family may need updated tetanus shots. Plus, these are classy
enough that I can tweeze my eyebrows (or nose hair) anywhere I need to – even in the nicest restaurants.

all photos courtesy of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book
 

And, Santa? If you are having a tough year – with the price of gas and bacon being so sky high — I would also be just as happy with a new
umbrella, some socks without holes in them and a popover pan.

Love,

Sherri

On My Watch

The flag was the first thing I noticed. Half-staff and limp on this windless morning.

Mourning as we all were, refusing to wave or stand tall.

Driving into the staff parking lot, this familiar drive I have done countless times, my heart was in my throat.

The kids were pouring into school, running to catch their friends or sneak some playground time before the 8:30 bell. Moms and dads walked along behind them, the familiar march I see most weekdays. A bit more somber than usual, I sensed.

This school is home to me. I started here as a rookie kindergarten parent back in 1999, when my son was 5 years old and school seemed the safest place next to my arms.

Years passed, and both of my kids moved up the ranks from the kindergarten crowd to the upper grades.

I snagged an amazing job working with at-risk kids in small groups, teaching social skills and being someone they could count on to talk about their worries or help them deal with rough times at home.

I love these little ones. So fragile, so trusting and so amazingly resilient.

How will I face them today, when that same fragility that endears them to me now makes them seem so very vulnerable?

As I walk the campus after the bell, I feel like I’m on my watch. Every little thing that seems off is questioned. Doors are locked, gates secured and parents gathered in whispering groups, their eyes full of fear. One of them stops me for a tearful hug, thanking me for what we do.

It reminds me of September 11, when the nation’s eyes were glued to the television and our whole world changed. Our feeling of safety stripped from us as if we were no longer entitled to it. I still sent my kids to school that morning. Many did not, but I felt the intense need to move forward, to make it right.

To make my children believe that there is good and fairness and safety in our world.

How do we do that now?

I pick up my first little group — three adorable, full-of-life little kindergarten girls — and we laugh, we sing, we compare shoes and we learn about taking turns.

They are blissfully unaware that their parents had to make a choice this day. A choice to send them to school and to let them live without fear or worry. To trust that the adults in charge are doing everything they can to keep them safe. A choice to keep their lives normal during all of this chaos.

And the choice to just let kids be kids.

And on my watch, that is just what they will be.

Thankful for the Little Things

There wasn’t enough of it at first. Not for quite some time.

Her father fretted about it just a bit.

His baby girl had hardly any hair.

Granted, nobody ever questioned her gender. Her searing blue eyes matched her brother’s but her features were all girl.

By the time she was two-years-old or so, I could pull together a very small pony tail. More of a collection of wisps, gathered ever so carefully in a tiny hair tie…maybe a small hair clip holding the castaways that were too short to be gathered.

And then, it grew. Her hair got longer and longer, and gathering up a pony tail was easy. It wasn’t her favorite style, but I could coax one out of her before a soccer game or a day at the pool.

Until she decided to cut it off and donate it to someone with cancer.

I was in awe that this tiny little girl would willingly part with her hair. The same hair her father and I were certain would never grow in without that characteristic male-pattern-baldness look we had come to adore.

Her new bob was adorable. She was happy, her hair was easier to manage and life moved on.

And then, slowly…her hair grew back. She still preferred it more medium-length, not too long because it got in the way of climbing monkey bars and swimming and playing soccer.

She always loved to play.

But time marches on.

Mothers grow older, schedules get tight and Monday flows directly into Sunday if you aren’t careful.

I watched this little one of mine walk away from me today…towards the high school soccer field, where the newly chosen freshman team is meeting to practice.

Pony tail swinging confidently, head held high and the world at her feet.

I miss that little girl with the wispy little pony tail.

But I still see her now and then.

And today, I am thankful for pony tails.

 

The Night they Listened

I am still filled with the magic of that night last May.

The evening of the Listen to Your Mother Show in San Francisco.

The night fourteen of us took the stage, opened our hearts, took a deep breath and spoke.

We told tales of our own mothers and tales of our own journey through motherhood. Woven together, our fourteen tales spoke volumes.

For in each mother there are stories…sad tears-in-your-eyes stories, stories that make you buckle over in laughter, stories you never thought you would tell.

Pieces of a life, etched firmly on the heart of a mom.

Here is mine.

Eighteen blinks

Nobody warns the mothers about the time.

Those hours and days that seem like they will never end.

The errands, the preschool drop-offs, outgrown shoes, skinned knees, play-dates, mac and cheese, playground woes, spilled milk, bad haircuts, and kindergarten projects made of beans and glitter. The hormones, driving lessons, AP tests, cramming for finals, outgrown jeans, messy rooms, mac and cheese, and sleeping until noon.

Endless time, years of it.

The time that passes so quickly…that slips through your fingers somewhere between diaper duty and senior awards night.

When they placed you in my arms all those years ago, you should have had a warning label.

Handle with care. Love unconditionally. Caution: will melt your heart.

Warning: Object in your arms will grow more quickly than it appears.

Eighteen years passes so very quickly.

Eighteen blinks later, you sit across the kitchen table from me… coffee cup in hand, reading the newspaper. This, this is what years of parenting lead to? A scruffy-faced young man with principles and ideals and morals and thoughts all his own? No longer to be shaped by my influence or advice?

This was exactly what I was supposed to do. I mothered, I cuddled, I talked and I listened.

And then I took a backseat.

I am so very proud of the young man you have become, and look forward to the years ahead as you grow and shape yourself even more into a young adult.

But this nagging feeling that there must be something I forgot to do with you still persists deep inside.

So forgive me if I invite you for an ice cream, pour you a cup of coffee, challenge you to a game of Scrabble, buy you a silly book, ask you about dinosaurs, offer you a ride on my shoulders or touch your thick wavy hair when I walk by.

I might not be finished with this mothering gig after all.