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Sweating the small stuff

May 5th, 2010

Reprinted from Today’s Local News, May 5, 2006

Finally, my life has value. Like a stamped ticket stub from the parking garage, I feel strangely validated as a mom. 

After living more than 20 years in Carlsbad with my husband and three kids, I’m taking a look at how they turned out—the kids, that is. Maybe I’ve made a lasting impact after all. 

Recently my oldest son, Ryan, had his birthday. Smart, and successful, he now lives in L.A. And when I complimented him on spreading his birthday festivities over two weekends, he said, “I learned from the best.” 

He was referring to my penchant for making a birthday last as long as possible. Not one to burden any single friend, I collect several cohorts who like to go to the movies, then call in all my chips once a year in a sustained movie-going marathon that lasts for at least a month. Not to mention last year, when I turned 50 and managed to stretch out the celebration for a record-breaking 50 weeks. 

I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hear Ryan’s words. After years of feeling as if the kids learned absolutely nothing from my efforts at good parenting, the enduring lessons finally are coming home to roost. 

Maybe my focus has been wrong. Here I was looking for eternal values to impart to my offspring, and all along they’ve been absorbing the small stuff. 

Take my vivacious daughter, Diane, for instance. In her worst nightmare she never wanted to be compared to me, let alone follow in my footsteps. However, last time she was at the chiropractor, she asked for a red pen to jot down the next appointment in her purse calendar. 

“Ah,” said the receptionist. “You’re just like your mom. She always writes hers in red.” 

You could hear the reaction for miles. “You’ve ruined me, Mom,” she wailed over the phone. “I’m just like you. My calendar is color coded.”

Personally, I can think of lots worse things about me to emulate. 

Like my secret obsession with going through the car wash. All those colored, sudsy bubbles massaged over the windshield with rubbery fingers—it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Unless you count the thwap-thwap-thwap of the side brushes propelling you through and the sharp scent of soap wafting through the air-conditioning vents. The only way to make it better would be to simultaneously eat chocolate. Who knows, maybe I’ve passed on this addiction to my daughter as well. 

But recently I had the biggest payoff of all. My second son, David, a clever, resourceful fellow who’s spending a semester abroad with an international studies program, called long distance from Spain at the crack of dawn.

“Hey, Mom,” he began in a matter-of-fact voice. “I’ve been arrested. Can you send money to bail me out?” 

Why am I so thrilled? Because his next words were music to my ears: “April Fools!” My favorite day of the year, and he remembered. 

No more regrets about wasted lessons and spurned values for me. This Mother’s Day was spent resting on my laurels and patting myself on the back for a job well done.

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