Oh, and Another Thing

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I married at 31 and started having babies when I was 33. By the time I was 38, we had three bouncing boys. I was getting older, tired and cranky, nearing 40 and seriously contemplated closing down the baby factory. Lo and behold, I was pregnant again.

Once we cleared the genetic screening hoops (our second son has a serious genetic disease), we anxiously awaited the arrival of our fourth, and final, child. We opted not to find out the gender of any of our children. We enjoyed the surprise when they were born. Even with the last child, I didn’t find out the gender because 1) I wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret, 2) if it were a boy, people would say, “oh, too bad,” before the poor guy was even born, and 3) while I knew too well how important a healthy baby was, regardless of the sex, I loved the idea of a little girl.

Miracle of miracles, I had a healthy little girl who is 12 now and just one of our crew. She is not the princess or the revered baby. She’s just #4. Okay, she twirls a lot more than her brothers, but you get the point.

Occasionally I feel a little bad that my daughter has an old mother, although I don’t think she thinks of me that way. I’m just her mom. Having lost my own wonderful mother a few years ago when I was 50, I feel a sense of wanting to impart all my wisdom to my daughter since she most likely will not have a mom for as long as I did. I was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, and while I am ostensibly cured, healthy and hoping to live a long life, one never knows what the future holds. I have to bite my tongue and subliminally drop my wisdom bombs. I don’t want her to remember me and think, “My mom was always cramming me with information because she was an old mom who worried about dying.”

I’m older than many of her friends’ moms, but that doesn’t bother me. I may not be as fun as younger moms who have more energy but I was never really that get-on -the floor-and-play-with-your-kids mom anyway.

Here are some things I want her to know:

  1. Read a recipe completely, BEFORE you start cooking.
  2. It’s worth it to pay more for a bra to have a salesperson who knows what they’re doing.
  3. When you order anything online, unless you really need it immediately always pick the regular shipping option – it usually comes just as fast.
  4. Be nice to everyone. If you happen to be popular, you want to be known as the really nice girl, not the mean girl.
  5. Don’t flatter yourself and think people care what you do. They have their own lives to worry about. Even if something happens in your life that makes you the news of the day, you will quickly be knocked down on the news-feed of life.
  6. Love yourself and your body. Everyone has things they wish were different about their body. Play to your strengths. I’m sorry you have bunions already at 12 years old. It’s part of the bad genes I passed on to you. Be thankful it’s your feet that you think are ugly and not your face.
  7. Don’t be a sheep and blindly follow others. Stick to your beliefs and values.
  8. When you have a house, put some lights on timers inside so it looks like people are inside. We were once burgled as a young couple when our house was completely dark, inside and out. Duh.
  9. Don’t be a doormat, to friends or a partner. Have relationships that are authentic and reciprocal.
  10. Don’t talk on your cell phone when in line at a store. It is rude to those around you and especially to the clerk. People don’t like to feel invisible. Smile at everyone.
  11. Have a schedule but be flexible, with yourself and with your children.
  12. Be grateful and express gratitude for what you have. Don’t whine about what you don’t have.
  13. Dress, speak, and act modestly. Be mindful of how you present and carry yourself. It speaks volumes about your character.
  14. Never “reply all” to an email unless it is specifically requested. No need to share the minutiae of replies. If you have to send an email to a large group, use the “bcc” so others can’t “reply all” either.
  15. Honor your father and your mother. Make sure I’m well cared for when I’m old. Two words – chin hairs.

I am aware of the opposite sides of the life cycle that we are on. My daughter is a young, budding teenager with beautiful, taut skin and boundless energy. I, on the other hand, am on the downhill slope which is full of lumps, bumps, wrinkles and if I’m lucky the occasional naps. We learn from each other’s different personalities and experiences, as even this old mom can learn new tricks. I will continue to quietly add to my wisdom list, teaching her with my words and through my actions.

Since my mother died, I often wonder “what would Mom do?” I can usually summon the answer. I hope my daughter will be able to do the same.

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Am I a Dance Mom?

I think of myself as a generic, run-of-the-mill mom.  Like many parents who benignly neglect their children, my kids spend hours in front of the computer searching God-knows-what.  Apparently my 10-year-old daughter is a fan of the show “Dance Moms.” I have never seen the show.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy watching television.  Binge-watching shows with my husband is a favorite activity.

For some reason, reality shows hold no allure for me.  Judging by the number of them on television, I gather I am in the minority.  My daughter is a big fan of this reality, dance mom show.  I was vaguely aware that it seemed to spark an interest in dance in her as I saw her twirling around the house in my peripheral vision.  She wanted to take a dance class, so I called a local dance studio.  Ignorant of all things dance, I didn’t have the words to make this request so I had to speak in the universal language of television.

“My daughter doesn’t know how to dance, has never taken a dance class, but she’s a big fan of ‘Dance Moms.’ Which class would you recommend for her?” I asked. This clearly was not their first Dance Mom inspired inquiry. The woman on the phone totally got it and pointed my daughter towards Broadway Jazz.  She loves it.

She happily attends her weekly class and always enjoys it.  I thought she looked so cute, picking out appropriate clothes to wear each week, doing her hair up into an intricate bun – sometimes with accessories on it.

Then she casually mentioned that the cast of Dance Moms was coming to town.  She reluctantly asked if maybe she could go – she said they would even be teaching a dance class.  Her reluctance showed that my daughter knows me well.  Surely I wouldn’t agree to waste money and time on something so frivolous, would I?

I mentioned it to my husband, who was on the same page as me.  Still, the 10-year-old gently and systematically kept asking, eventually showing me the website where I could find all of the information.  What to do?

I sought the advice of a friend who is the mom of my daughter’s best friend.  She was enthusiastic and thought her daughter would love it as well.  Really?  She would consider it?  Would I?  Could I?

“You talk about making memories.  This would definitely be an experience your daughter would remember,” she said.

She had me there.

So I surprised my daughter, and myself, by buying tickets and planning to attend this event. It included meeting the girls from the show, having your picture taken with them, and taking a class taught by a teacher from the show.  Four hours of fun.  She was so excited.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I tried to keep the curmudgeon in me in check and mustered up excitement and enthusiasm for my child.  The event was well-organized and not a complete mob scene.  The mother-attendees were a mix of typical suburban moms, like myself, and what appeared to me to be true dance moms.  There were many adorable girls, appropriately dressed, and then there were others who reminded me of Jon Benet Ramsey.

I realized where my daughter got the bun idea from. What I thought was darling and adorable when she created it at home, suddenly looked pedestrian in a sea full of buns.

The dance girls seemed like typical girls, though a little precocious. “Please turn off your flash when you take pictures…it hurts our eyes,” they requested.  They seemed bored with the endless picture-taking.  Who wouldn’t be? I only met one mom from the show – a school principal I’m told. She seemed normal and nice.  The other Dance Moms were busy selling merchandise so I did not interact with them.  My friend and I agreed there would be no merchandise purchases; the memories would have to be made through the experience and pictures of the day.  Our girls were so excited because they ran into some of the girls from the show in the bathroom! Can you imagine? They use the bathroom too!

The dance class was cute.  Our girls were on the younger and less experienced side, so they happily positioned themselves in the back of the room.  They warmed up, learned two dances, and got to dance in front of the people from the show.  At the end, each of the four girls from the show did a dance routine.

On the way home, the girls were chatting about the day.  “Did you see why we were so skeptical about it?” I asked.  My friend shot me a glance to silence me.  I was grateful for the restraint.  No need for grumpy old me to be a buzz-kill.  They experienced the day through the fresh eyes of children, not through my cynical lens.

I am pretty sure my daughter is not going to be a professional dancer and that I am not going to be a dance mom. While I was reluctant to indulge in this activity outside of my comfort zone,  I saw how much fun she had.  Maybe I’m just a mom who was happy to give her child a fun day she will always remember.

That’s what I was going for.

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