Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sweet summer time

As I tucked my son into bed the other night, he bemoaned the fact that tomorrow was yet another school day.
He loves it, but a week of testing can wear a boy out.

“Cheer up!” I said. “We have big plans for the summer.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“We are flying 4,000 miles to Alaska to stay with your cousins, remember?”

His response?
“Are we doing anything else?”

I shot him a look that made him quickly add, “Just asking!”

Each generation likes to tell the generation after them how hard they had it growing up, and how lucky they have it today.

Well, I’ve now become that generation.

“We need to go buy a 1964 Pontiac with no air conditioner,” I declared as I came down the stairs from saying good-night.
“What?” my husband asked.

“I want an old Pontiac or Chevrolet like I had growing up, so I can pack PB&J sandwiches, roll down the windows and take them on road trips the old-fashioned way, so they’ll appreciate what they have.”

“Why do you want to punish us like that?” my husband replied.

I sighed. He had a point. Anytime we have to drive more than 30 minutes, I marvel at how the DVD is the greatest invention ever. In fact, my kids measure trip distance by how many movies they can watch. Disney World is a five movie trip (one way), for example.

Alas, growing up, my poor parents did not have that luxury. Fortunately, the noise from the air blowing into the windows would drown out the cries of “How much farther?” and “She’s looking at me!” from my sister and me.

Today, summer for kids means camps and planned activities and what adults would consider dream vacations. Back in my day (yes, I just said that), summers meant something entirely different. Summers meant delightful treats, such as wild blackberries and honeysuckles.

Summers meant we could go barefoot (though I don’t know why that was such a huge deal because, frankly, it hurt, especially since our yard was full of bees and sweet gum balls), but somehow taking our shoes off for the first time and feeling the cool sensation of clover beneath our feet meant freedom.

Freedom to roam and play and read and eat popsicles made from Kool-aid in little squares meant for ice cubes. Freedom to get bored and make mud pies and catch lightning bugs. Freedom to be a kid. And, it was wonderful.

Somehow, I hope this summer my children can get a taste of what I had back then – even if we have to travel 4,000 miles to find it. Although, I think we’ll take a plane and not a ‘64 Pontiac for this trip.

The mommy wars

Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen sparked political controversy recently when she accused Ann Romney of “Never working a day in her life.”

While Romney handled it gracefully with a well-thought-out response, I think I simply would have gone on television and held my hand up, palm facing out, and said, “Count them — one, two, three, four, five — boys. B-O-Y-S.”

And then for dramatic effect, I would have added “‘Nuff said!” and walked off.

Now, to be clear, I am no political junkie. Talking politics makes me extremely uncomfortable because it always leads to a debate, which is a polite way to say “argument.” More so, it’s an argument that neither person is likely to win because his or her mind is already made up. It would be like trying to convince me English peas taste good, for example. I don’t care what you say or how you cook them, they do not.

However, Rosen’s comments caught my attention immediately because I am mom, and I know the pressures of raising children, no matter whether you are working full time or staying-at-home. I hate that expression, by the way, because when I was the latter, a day without having to leave the house was a luxury.

You may be asking: Why the debate? Who cares if a woman works inside or outside of the home?

The answer is, women care. No matter whether one is president of the PTA or CEO of a corporation, women are competitive. And we are also our own worst critics.

I must admit, as a working mom, the pressure (or guilt) I felt came mainly from within. Sure, I heard a few stay-at-home moms go “tsk, tsk” when I brought in store-bought goods for the bake sale. But what I hated the most was dropping my daughter off at day care before school opened, so she could be bused to school each day. And I detested being the last one to pick her up from after school care even though she enjoyed every minute of it.

On the flip side, as a stay-at-home mom, I again felt great pressure. Not from working moms, not from other moms, but, again, from myself. I always thought I had to throw the biggest birthday parties with homemade cakes and over-the-top decorations, including homemade piƱatas.

One party was so extraordinary, not to mention overwhelming, that my daughter hid in her room. (Don’t worry. She has fully recovered from that childhood trauma and so have I.)

Today, I am continuing my quest for the perfect balance between work and home. I don’t know what the secret is, but I believe it begins by not holding oneself -- and each other -- to impossibly high standards. Whether you have one, two, three, four or five children, being a mother is work. And, though it may not earn a paycheck, it is, by far, the most rewarding.