June 18, 2009

Kick Ball in the New Millenium

Lately, I'm trapped in a time warp of sorts. It's one of those annoyingly hot September days; the kind that leaves trace evidence of playground dirt in the creases of your sweaty palms and rings around the ankle line of your brand new white socks. School is newly in session and I'm on the playground in my newest threads for the coming year. It's fourth grade and clothes are starting to matter. Much to my dismay, my mom still won't allow me to wear jeans like all the other girls but that's another blog. The ball is pitched; a long, uneven roll from the chubby pitcher's hand. It bounces left, curves right, and misses the burned out grass patch that we've marked as home plate. "DO OVER!" Then, just like that, the red rubber ball is lopped back to the pitcher and we repeat the ritual.

Life as a fourth grader sure was simple. Life's routine was set to the same clock everyday. The only surprise that ever came my way was the quarterly fire drill or some random extra credit word on the weekly spelling test. If ever there was a doubt about the natural order of things that simple phrase, "DO OVER" pretty much set things right again.

Fast forward some 25 years and I'm now caught up in a new game: motherhood. There are no set rules, only variations on the same play. Most days I feel like that rubber dodge ball from fourth grade recess. I bounce wildly from one mood to another. I get tossed when least expected and just when I feel like I'm cruisin' along my life's path a random pebble gets in my way and throws me completely off course. At least twice a day I have a "DO OVER" moment, though according to my girlfriends I am "an awesome mom" which is just so completely laughable. If they knew that I scrub my toilets on the same frequency as those elementary fire drills, perhaps sooner if company is expected, would they still be my friends? What if they knew that I lied to Charlie about his Halloween candy having been robbed just so that I would have something to nibble on while surfing the net? Surely eyebrows would raise.

As of late I could really use that DO OVER pass. I think my worst moment came during a bike ride home from the neighborhood pool. To be fair, it was hot. Not just uncomfortably warm but sizzling. It was the kind of heat that singes your arm hairs when you stand out in the direct sunlight. Well, come to think of it, that may be a slight exaggeration on my part but it was hot that day and we were all tired. Yes, a recipe for disaster...

So we're peddaling along the three of us; Lola in the bike trailer and Charlie on his bike, the training wheels wobbling uncertainly from side to side. It's not too bad a ride if you're an adult but for a 3 year old, it's a haul. Half a mile into our one mile tour he had already stopped 28 times.

"Let's check out those dandelions."
"Hey Mama, how many hops do you think it will take me to make it across the bike path?"
"Wait! I have to tie my shoe." (they're velcro folks)
"I think I saw a bear. Lemme go check!"
...and the list goes on.

By the time we got to the home stretch, a giant hill between us and the reprieve of an air conditioned house, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and Lola was screaming from her domed prison which was now acting more like a mini dutch oven. "Charlie! Get. On. That. Bike. And. PEDAL!" This phrase had become my mantra throughout the majority of the ride home. There we were, locked in a mother-son Mexican stand off. The more he whined and complained, the more ademant I was that he was going to ride, damnit.

Finally we came to a small cluster of trees on a grassy patch at the foot of the hill. We were less than 500 yards from the house but I knew that neither of us was going to make it without that break. The three of us collapsed under the patchwork of shadows cast down from the leaves. Charlie's cheeks were streaked with sweat, dirt and tears. I felt like the worst mom in the world. Would he remember the good time we had had at the pool some 45 minutes ago? Probably not. My raging hormones had sealed the deal. I was now the Gestappo and regretting every bit of the last half hour.

Adding insult to injury was the lone jogger who approached bearing gifts of water and a Snickers candy bar. He was like the 4th Magi but I was too proud to accept. "Oh no thanks, we're fine. Our house is just up the hill. We're almost home, really. He'll be fine..."

"No, no. It's for YOU."

Gulp. This was Divine Intervention telling me, "Yep Sister, you've officially lost it." I don't even remember what I said at that point. I think I was too busy looking for a rock to crawl under. DO OVER. DO OVER. DO OVER!!!!!!

But, life doesn't work that way. Guilt and plenty of shame guided me up that last hill. I pushed both bikes simultaneously, hanging my head low while praying like mad that the anonymous Good Samaritan was watching my lame attempt at redemption. How had a simple bike ride turned me into Joan Crawford? Would Charlie need therapy because of my wacked out hormones? Would this be his earliest memory of Mom? Christ, I'm such a failure!

Then, as we approached the top of the hill, order was restored in one simple phrase,

"Hey Mama, that was fun let's do it again!"

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