From Mosh Pit to Ball Pit, and Back Again

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A couple of weeks ago, the other mommies and I were photographed in the ball pit at the Clay Center.  I joked on Facebook that I was the only mommy wearing a pencil skirt and heels.  Not the best ball pit apparel, but I wore it anyway with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I was feeling so anti-mommy that day that I wished they’d let me stand off to the side, looking bored with a cigarette dangling from my lip.  (But, I still wanted in the picture, obviously.)

I was just feeling… Well, honestly, I was just feeling too cool* for the ball pit.

I’ve noticed that a lot lately: that- as the kids get older- my inner teenager seems to be reemerging.  She’s the one who is ready for the kids to get on with guitar or drum lessons- who doesn’t want to talk anymore about birth stories or breastfeeding.  She’s ready to dream about cross country road trips again, or about writing a book.  It’s like my inner adolescent is experiencing her own individuation process; but from whom is she separating: the inner parent or the (actual) kids?

Both, I think.  On the one hand, I think I’ve been ready to shake off the hazy glow of new parenthood for a while now.  I am more beleaguered than blissful; more harried than harmonious.  The days of sewing window treatments and going to the Library for Books-n-More are long gone.  I’m happier when we’re going to see Harry Potter or Prom than, say, Rio.  I am looking forward to know these children as tweens, teens, and adults.  I mean, babies are cute and all, but I’m just… done.  (Note to God- or, you know, whoever might be listening: Please do not make that last sentence the punch line of some sick, pre-menopausal joke.)

But, it’s more than just separating the Mom from the Mommy.  I’ve had to separate myself from the kids a bit, too.  When their father and I divorced, we agreed to joint custody, split right down the middle: 50/50.  I couldn’t have prepared for the shock of going from stay-at-home mom to seeing my children only half the time.  It took the wind out of me, frankly, and the only way I could get through the feelings of loss, at first, was to make my life less kid-centered.

But, in doing that, I rediscovered some of the things I loved, that I’d put aside:  reading, for instance; going to hear live music; and blogging.  I have started making a collage of pictures representing all that I want for the future: I’m dreaming again.  Just like a young woman with her whole life ahead of her!

While the kids were on vacation with their dad this week, I skipped out of work early to drive to Columbus to see a band I hadn’t seen in twenty years.  I donned the typical uniform of my youth: cowboy boots, a short black skirt, and a white tank.  I edged my way to the very front and stood right at the foot of the stage. When a 20-something tried to push her way in front of me, I- ahem- gently elbowed her out of the way.  When someone crowd-surfed over my head, I didn’t duck: I helped get him to the stage.  Twenty years and two kids had made this rebel mom more mosh-pit worthy than she’d ever been!

As my friend and I left the venue, a young man yelled out, “Where’ve you been all my life, baby?”

To which I replied, “Old.  I’ve been old all your life.”

And, then, suddenly, I did feel like an adult again, and a contented one, at that.  Content that I was able to laugh about being old enough to be this guy’s mother; content that I wasn’t trying to get backstage to meet the band; and content that, someday in the not-too-distant future, I could take my kids to concerts with me.

While I was mused over all of this, a memory crept in from a time when my son was just little- before my daughter was born. I remembered how he, when he was just a little older than two, would ask me to play this one song by the band I had just seen.  He would bop around and I would belt out the lyrics and then, when it was over, he’d shout, “Again, again!!” and clap his little hands.

As I stood there, on the sidewalk, misting up over the memory of my precious baby, I realized that the Mommy in me had- ahem- gently elbowed the punky, teenage me out of her way.

*smoking cigarettes is not cool- I was kidding about the cigarette.

(This blog was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)

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