Being mature and well-adjusted, sometimes

I have at least reached an age where my self-destructive urges are mostly limited to thinking about cutting my own bangs. I remember angst and that feeling of hating the world and just wanting to die, but then I remember that at 36, I could be diagnosed with breast cancer anytime. Anytime. This perspective helps me deal with the teen angst I still have.

Twenty-five is still young. Thirty-five is not. When I was young, I don’t think I ever envied anyone over 30. Now I do. I envy the women who wear dangling jingle bell earrings at Christmastime. Oh, I’ve worn Christmas sweaters, but I didn’t mean it. It was a joke, and even then I could barely pull it off. If I wore dangling jingle bell earrings, would I be carefree? Could I be in the moment and remember what it was like before everything was a means to an end?

It would be nice to reconnect with a time before I was worried about the way that I look. I once told a boyfriend, “every day is ruined for every woman because she doesn’t look like a supermodel.” He didn’t get it, but my best friend agreed. She was a former ballerina and when people said she was beautiful, they meant it.
Aging obviously doesn’t solve the problem. For many of us, it makes it worse.

It must be really traumatic for the truly beautiful – aging that is.

But what about those girls who’ve never used mascara or covered a blemish? Where do they get their confidence? I guess it is like Maya Angelou said in Phenomenal Woman:

“It’s the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet …”

Well, I’m not there yet.

I do a lot of hand-wringing about the effect that our appearance-obsessed culture will have on my daughter. From the time we are little girls, we are told how important our looks are. And the truth is that appearance does matter. It is just an unfortunate truth.

So I go back and forth about whether Annabelle should do ballet. Her gym teacher tells me that she’s “a little athlete.” I love to hear it because I was the kid who was afraid of the ball, the one who got picked last for everything, except spelling bee. (Somehow, in seventh-grade, we had teams for spelling bees.)

And so as I seek to live vicariously through the next generation, I weigh not only the positives and negatives of each extracurricular activity, but my own biases as well. I realize, too, that at this age, the overscheduled kid is largely the result of the bored parent.

There’s a logical part of me that wants Annabelle to play ball, but the selfish part would rather go to the ballet.


Fundraisers are expensive, and hard work

Annabelle as Dorothy, again. Me as Emily Dickinson.

Annabelle as Dorothy, again.
Me as Emily Dickinson.

Some fundraisers are really weird. On Friday, I had to donate $10 so my kids could participate in a “Run or Read” event at their school. Because we donated $10, my kids got to run. Or read. Or something like that. Annabelle will receive a pink witch’s finger, which she intends to somehow use as a reading aid, and Oliver got a glow stick.

It’s kind of like this 5K race I briefly considered for myself. I’m supposed to pay $25 to walk five kilometers. This strikes me as counterintuitive. If I’m paying money, shouldn’t I be getting something back? Paying money plus walking or running five miles equals too much effort on my part. I should be doing one or the other – paying or walking, that is. I could see donating $25 for a nice festive holiday carriage ride, but I don’t think I want to pay to lug myself down a five-kilometer path.

I much prefer the kind of fundraiser I sponsored today, where you paid us $1 and we gave you two or three cookies. He who donates gets something yummy to eat. I’ll admit, it’s a lot less appealing when the cookies are wet because it’s raining and the crowd is thin and harried because of the whipping wind and your competition is a snack bar selling warm, delicious foods such as hot dogs, fries and hot chocolate. And there was Chick-fil-a. It’s hard to compete with Chick-fil-a.

What I am saying, though, is that I prefer a bake sale to a 5K fundraiser on principle. I realize that I will never be thin with this attitude. You don’t sit on your lazy bum eating gluten and freezing to death and asking teenagers where they got their jeans and expect to be thin. It just doesn’t work that way.

This morning began like many others in our household – with a screaming match related to food allergies. See, I was supposed to make maple fudge for the fundraiser, and I did, but suffice to say that the fudge did not turn out well.

Because last night was Halloween, and Dan and I were taking Oliver and Annabelle trick-or-treating, I knew I would not have time to spend the evening wasting more confectioner’s sugar as I attempted to make something edible from scratch. So I stopped at the grocery store and bought some refrigerated cookie dough. I started baking around 6 a.m. this morning.

These cookies were to be off-limits to my own children for two reasons: One, they were for the bake sale, and two, they contained eggs and dairy products, which my kids cannot have. Fortunately, they both had baskets of Halloween candy, which I foolishly thought would pacify them. Oliver descended the stairs this morning, went straight to his Halloween candy, and then came to see what I was doing at the oven. He looked longingly at the forbidden cookies, and the next thing I knew, three out of four family members were in tears. Dan was not.

One thing I know is that there is a lot of guilt involved in being a mother. Your children can have baskets full of Halloween candy and still make you feel bad for baking cookies for other people. Another thing I know is that your own family will take you for granted. The teenagers thanked me for sponsoring the bake sale. My kids did not thank me for taking them trick-or-treating last night. It did not occur to them that I might have anything better to do.

And honestly, I didn’t.

I am so glad I went trick-or-treating on Friday night, on a crisp autumn evening in a quaint suburban neighborhood – my own.

And I am so glad I sponsored the bake sale, even though every last one of us was miserably cold and we made very little money. I know for certain that when I look back on it in 20 years, if I am fortunate enough to still be here, it will seem like it was fun, and I will want to go back and do it over.

On a practical note, I have decided that Annabelle and I probably won’t join Girl Scouts. Begging people to buy cookies in the freezing cold is a trauma I can endure, but not one I want to pursue with regularity. My friends are all in Girl Scouts. They are just better people than I am.

Dan stayed home with the kids today and they baked cookies with no eggs or dairy to make up for the pain and agony I had inflicted on the family this morning with my store-bought cookies. He says he can bake better allergen-free cookies from scratch than I can. He is wrong, dead wrong, and I intend to prove it tomorrow.

We are kind of like the couple in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Anything I can do, he can do better, as they said in the musical. He’s a better teacher than me, he has more writing awards, and he is most certainly a better shot than I am.

I’ve got no idea what do with a dead deer other than call somebody.

But I do think I can kick his ass when it comes to baking vegan cookies.