Role-Reversal

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I can’t ever remember a time growing up that my parents asked me how to do anything. It was always the other way around with me asking them for help, and they always knowing how to do it.  Not to take anything away from their brilliance, but things were a lot simpler back then. No iPhones, remotes, or apps. The television, stereo, and lights had one switch/2 options: on or off.  So it was simple and didn’t  require a password, a download, or a PDF file. I thought my father was brilliant simply because he could switch the sound in the stereo from one speaker to another.  Your parents were supposed to be smarterfather with child than you.

Today, my house and my life come to a grinding halt if I can’t get in touch with one of my kids. It’s complete role-reversal with them being brilliant and me not so much. They are being the all-knowing parent, me the naive child.

I don’t enjoy feeing simple-minded around my kids. Everything is complicated AND it’s all connected which makes it even worse.  My DVD is connected through the Xbox which is connected to the television.  This means that if I want to watch a movie I need one of them to turn the TV on for me.

Sometimes, when I’m home alone I sit in a dark room hoping if I concentrate hard enough the television will turn on by itself.  Friends are impressed by how many books I read, but really, if I could get the TV to turn on I wouldn’t read that many books.

The lights in the family room come with a programmable remote control.  It’s called “SmartHome” and it’s a multi-room lighting control kit. Once again, you need an engineer’s degree to complete the simple task of turning the lights on. The kit includes an eight button keypad.  The instructions say, “plug into an outlet and connect to your router which can then be accessed from any web-enabled device.” ARE THEY KIDDING ME? I JUST smart mom remoteWANT TO TURN A LIGHT ON AND I DON’T WANT TO ASK MY KIDS HOW TO DO IT.

I want a remote called “SmartMom” which could make me, well…smart.

My kids are very patient with helping me. Their generation was all born “on the grid”.  Their first word spoken was probably “synch,” and they can complete any task involving electronics and technology at such lightening speed that it doesn’t pay to follow or try to learn myself.  By the time it takes me to find my glasses they have already downloaded, uploaded, liked it on Facebook and hooked me up with some cloud that I’m still trying to get a handle on.

Even trying to impress them with apps on my phone backfires.  “I have Pandora” I tell them.  Only to be told that Spotify and Tunein Radio are far superior to my hokey little Pandora app.  “Yeah, well I downloaded the Torch app and now I have a flashlight on my phone… So there!”  They are speechless.flashlight app

“And furthermore, we were allowed to play tag even though not everyone could be “it”, and not everyone got a trophy but we still felt good about ourselves, and we could make eye contact and HAVE A CONVERSATION with another person without texting!”  Now they are looking at me like I have lost my mind, but I don’t care. I’m tired of feeling inadequate. I want to feel like my parents got to feel….superior, omniscient, and brilliant.

My daughter recently got an iPhone 5.  We were standing in line at the mall and she said, “I can’t figure out how to post a picture to Facebook from this phone.” I literally ran someone over to help her.  Imagine…me helping her!  “LET… ME… SHOW…YOU…HOW… TO…USE…YOUR… iPhone,” I practically screamed so that all could hear and be totally amazed by me, a mere grown-up helping a child with something electronic.  And so it came to pass that I did help her.  To add to my new feeling of superiority, the young cashier said  he had never seen it happen before and was truly impressed.  Feeling pretty cocky I told him that I even had the torch app and could use my phone as a flashlight…and then I lost him. But for a brief period, I was brilliant and it felt amazing.child

After leaving the mall I tried to get into my car and realized I couldn’t find my keys.  I was practically in a panic trying to think on which counter I had left them.  It was then that I noticed my daughter with a smile on her face that seemed to be growing.  Slowly she pulled my keys out from one pocket, and then my reading glasses from her other pocket.  “…Just so you don’t think you know it all” she said.

ANNOYING

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Based on the many phone calls I’ve been receiving since I started this blog I am of the opinion that we are all cranky.  Everyone has an idea for me on what to moan and then write about with lists of things they find annoying.  I like annoying.  I’ve been annoying my whole life and now I get to write about it.

Annoying is when I go to a salon for a facial and walk out with $250 worth of products promising to tone, tighten, lighten, and firm my dull, loose, age-spotted skin. After clearing out my medicine cabinet of the arsenal of products from my last facial which promised pretty much the same results, I am now armed with a sack of new products promising to fight everything about my face these specialists tell me I shouldn’t like. The problem is I can’t remember what the application instructions are for the 32 products I just purchased.
Is there a consequence if I use my morning recovery complex in the evening? What will happen if I exfoliate for dermal repair on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of Mondays and Fridays? What if I lose interest after a week? I absolutely need a spreadsheet and it must be taped to the bathroom mirror.

Annoying are designers using 20 year old models to try and get me to wear jeggings in bright red or orange for the Fall season, jeans below my waist, or skirts above my mid-thigh . Anyone who is 50+ does not want jeans below their belly button for reasons I don’t need to elaborate on, and we will wear pants in one color and one color only… black. If we are really feeling adventurous, we may try dark brown, but red and yellow? Are you kidding me? When designers can make 50 year old models that are 5’3”, are 15-20 pounds over their glory days weight, and have more rolls than the bakery section at Shop Rite look good, I’ll buy the product. I’m not impressed they can make Angelina Jolie look good….try making women like me look good.

Annoying are all the plug-ins I own. I am drowning in cords for my phone, my navigation system, my iPad, my iPod, my Bluetooth, my Nook. I remember when all I ever had to plug in was the iron. It never had to be recharged, uploaded, downloaded, synched with the toaster and I never lost it. The iron didn’t need to be programmed and I didn’t need an app to install it. The iron didn’t need a password to operate, didn’t need to know if it could save my location or push notifications to me. It ironed my shirts. Period. End of story.

I find it annoying that despite the spreadsheet on my bathroom mirror and the $250 worth of products I’m still referred to as “ma’am” when I’m out at a restaurant. I secretly want them to say, “here’s your table babe”, and not, “here is your table, ma’am.” I want to scream, “listen buster… ma’am is somebody your mother’s age” but then I look at him and realize that I’m probably older than his mother, so “ma’am” it is. This summer I went to a Mets game (talk about an annoying team) and I was asked to show ID when I bought a beer. Seriously, I almost kissed that vendor. I walked back to my seat thinking, damn girl you must look good, until I found out that they asked my 80 year old father for ID too. Yup…”ma’am” it is.

Annoying is that lately, I notice I can’t remember why I am standing in a particular room. It’s not like it’s a room that there is much to think about either…It’s an unfinished, dark, basement. “Think “I tell myself, “think, think, think…there must be a reason you are standing in a dark, unfinished, basement you fool!” And then the light comes on…the freezer, yes I came down to get something out of the freezer. Now if only I coud remember what it is I plan on doing with the food that I got out of the freezer. I will check the spreadsheet in my bathroom. Perhaps it’s something for my skin.

Shana Tova/Buon Anno…it’s all the same, let’s eat!

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My father is Jewish and my mother a Catholic Italian, so religion didn’t play a very big role in their courtship (much to both their family’s chagrin), or in their marriage (can I say much to my delight? Probably not a good idea, so scratch that). With my diverse and particular family history I had some experience being “stuck in services”.  Whether I was saying shana tova or buon anno it was all the same. Happy New Year….let’s eat!

Having been on both sides of the religion and holiday fence I can see that there are many similarities. Jews and Italians alike gather around a table, go to church/temple, are exhausted for a week afterwards and everyone regardless of their ethnic or religious background complain relentlessly. Too much cooking, too much company, too many dishes to clean, not enough time in the day, kids who get sick, in-laws who can’t cook, husbands who don’t do enough, blah blah blah. It’s part of the tradition in both cultures and I both love it and look forward to it.

There were many similarities between the time spent in church and at temple. First there was the fidgeting. All of us cousins fidgeted. There were 9 of us at church and 8 of us at temple. We giggled at the wrong moments and our giggling always got stronger and more uncontrollable at which point an aunt or uncle would shoot us a look and the giggling ceased without a word being uttered. It didn’t matter if it was my Jewish Aunt Esther or my Italian Aunt Adele…THE LOOK was THE LOOK. It meant “knock it off” and it was recognized in all religions.

Priest or Rabbi, the guilt was always front and center. You just can’t be a good Catholic or Jew without being told to feel guilty about something. My Jewish relatives listened to the Shofar blown during lengthy prayer services, ate holiday meals and refrained from work. It’s wasn’t much different for my Italian relatives. They listened to Frank Sinatra, ate holiday meals and refrained from work too.

For the Jewish holidays we went to my Aunt Rose’s house where we had to “open the door” for someone…I think it was Elija and for the Catholic holidays we went to my nanna’s house where she would gladly open the door to anybody with an appetite. My Italian mother’s motto: If I don’t recognize it, I’m not eating it. My dad’s motto: If I can’t spell it I’m not eating it which made the holiday a bit daunting with things like scungilli, calamari, and baccala being served. It’s not surprising he stuck with the shrimp.

The dining room tables in each home were huge and beautifully turned out. The food was wonderful, the wine sweet for the Jewish holiday and homemade for the Italian holiday. The marching orders were also similar: women in the kitchen, men in the family room. Or as I later came to realize, women cooking, serving, cleaning up. Men were eating, watching television, snoring on the couch. All my cousins were happy to be under the radar and not asked to do anything but to sit quietly at the table. Thankfully, it was never quiet at the table. There was conversation and no hand held devices. AlI we were asked to do was eat, which we gladly did. No cell phones, no tablets, no gameboys. We made eye contact. We ate, we drank, we spilled, we ate some more.

It doesn’t matter what is being served: brisket or linguini with clam sauce and can you even believe that my father now eats calamari? The similarities are what bind all of us: family, the eating, the drinking, the coming together, and even the walk to church or the ride to temple. Even the fidgeting is a happy memory for me. And to this day, my father still attempts to put his American Express card in the basket when it comes around at church. And guess who is giving him THE LOOK? ME! Talk about role reversal.

I wonder if the reason none of the cousins in either family – Italian or Jewish, were asked to help much was because the adults knew that soon enough our time would come to serve 20 plus for the holidays. That time is here and now it’s these same parents, aunts and uncles who sit at our beautifully turned out tables, with wine and amazing food while we cousins prepare, serve, clean, and of course, complain. (I’ve raised the complaining part to an art form). The people around the dining room table may change as some have passed on but the tradition is the same and I don’t ever want it to change. Well, I take that back. There is one thing that had to change… at least in my house. There is no such thing as women in the kitchen, men in the family room. If you can eat, you can clean up. Some change in the tradition is a good thing. Let’s eat!

The Drop-Off

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During a trip I recently took, I both sent and received the following texts from my friends: “it takes time to get over it”, “there is nothing worse”, “you will have good times and then you will be a crying mess again”. At the same time my daughter sat in the back seat of our car texting her friends and giggling. Later, she answered her phone and I heard her say, “Yeah, both my parents are crying too.”

Thankfully this is nothing as serious as death, divorce, or cancer, but rather the yearly trek that some of us make taking our kids to college…the drop-off.

And if one more person tells me “I’ll be fine” I think I will throw up. Of course I will be fine and I’m hopeful I will love my new life, but I’m not quite ready to be on the road to recovery just yet. I’m thinking of starting a support group like AA for those of us recovering from the drop-off. We could call ourselves DOA – Drop-Off Anonymous. We no longer would have to tear up alone…in the car, in the bathroom, making a bed, hiding our tears behind sunglasses, ashamed and alone. We could all do it together – once a week for as long as it took to get a grip. We would recognize and deal with the stages of recovery. We could have sponsors who are fully recovered and would give us hope.

My youngest left last Thursday for college and I am no longer a sack of drippy emotions. For the last 3 weeks, most of my friends have also been dropping their kids off at various colleges and so we are all in different stages of recovery. We’re like emotional cheerleaders for each other. “Hang in there!” “As long as they’re happy you can be happy!” Nobody really expects to feel happy, but just knowing that we are all being ridiculous (You’re probably thinking“pathetic”) is helpful.

Those of us who have been through the college drop-off before are familiar with the first stage: denial. We knew what the “first timers” were in for and tried to warn them. But like children with no point of reference, they had no idea what they were in for and happily went on their way buying bedding, microwaves, fans, and USB ports. The denial stage made them blissfully unaware of what this spike on their VISA bill really meant. Those of us all too familiar with this stage started with the tears weeks in advance of the actual drop off. We wistfully looked at mom’s walking their young children to school, wondering, where did all the time go?

The depression phase started the last 2 weeks in August when were all walking around in different stages of duress. Everywhere I went I saw women who were usually rushing through Shop Rite in yoga pants, sweaty from their most recent workout of Guns, Buns, and ABs clutching a phone in one hand and a food list in the other, instead, acting sort of weepy and slowly ambling down the aisles. We were like zombies anxiously awaiting THE DATE as it loomed ever closer. “When is your date”, I would ask. “August 15th, August 21st, August 30th” they would mumble. You would think we were sending our kids off to slaughter. Get a grip, I kept telling myself, your new life awaits! My mother to me, “get over it Tracy, you will cry for a week and then you will be fine.” Gee thanks, mom.

It’s been 2 weeks since the drop-off and I’m in the transition phase of my recovery. During this phase the worst is over. You are calmer and go most of the day without tearing up. It helps that I hear from my kids regularly. Texts will come in at 3 in the morning so my sleep is interrupted but I force myself to remember that I love and miss them so much that I don’t mind searching for my glasses, turning on a light, picking up the phone to read, “hey” on my phone. “Hey?’ How do you answer a “hey?” From this profound and well written message I can see that they are up at 3 in the morning, and I tell myself the university library is open 24 hours so I know they are studying. I get pictures of food so I know they are eating, pictures of school mascots and 60,000 of their friends so I know they are getting social interaction. No pictures or texts of getting an education, but I don’t want to dampen their mood.

The side effects are receding and I believe I am into the acceptance phase of my recovery. I am getting used to putting myself first and there is considerably less laundry. I find joy in the fact that my daughter can no longer use the laundry basket as a drawer. The laundry fairy has been freed. It makes me smile that my son, a college senior, has to get up before noon and that it will occur to him (on his own, and not by a nagging parent) that if he wants to stay up till 3 in the morning it may be difficult to function. I practically beam to think that one of the stops in his day is finding time to go grocery shopping. And that guess what? Dinner just doesn’t appear every night at 6:30! Do I sound giddy? You bet.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do miss them…every day. I was never one of those mothers who cheered when the bus came in early September to pick my kids up for their first day of school. But instead of having until 2:30 to do anything for me only, I have until Thanksgiving. I’m doing things I have thought about doing for years. I’m taking a writing course, I’m volunteering, and I’m only doing the food shopping once a week! But the best thing about being home alone is the fact that my husband and I no longer say to ourselves…can we do this? Because, YES WE CAN! We saw the Eagles in Atlantic City and then Madonna at Yankee Stadium and we didn’t have to worry about who was home or who may need us. As a matter of fact, upon getting home at 3 in the morning I did something I’ve always wanted to do…I texted my kids, “hey!” Recovery is sweet.