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I've been at the mothering game for over a decade now, so I have no excuse for being surprised that the start of school next week is floating ahead of me like a lush, soothing mirage of peace and tranquility, life-sustaining nourishment, quiet and, did I mention, peace? How I am longing for peace for those five consecutive school-filled hours. OK, three for the first week. And, actually, only one for the first day (which is Tuesday instead of Monday for some inexplicable reason, but still).
The prospect of some amount of time where no one burps in my face or wakes up and asks, "What are we doing today, Mom?" or snaps back at me, "I'm not playing a game, I'm listening to music!" Or wails, "Mom, why won't you buy me Frosted Flakes? It's my VACATION, MOM!" is what's giving me life, these last days of August.
However, in the interest of gratitude and appreciation for the life I dreamed of having when I was living on a futon in one room in West Hollywood, staring at the wall in silence while eating popcorn, I want to take a few minutes to reflect on our time together and thank my children for the good times.
1. Thank you, boys, for teaching me that I can live on pizza scraps and homemade fried chicken carcass, which you begged me to make and that you quickly gnarled the skin off of and then threw to the side of the plate like roadkill.
2. Thank you for showing me that you are capable of sleeping past 6 a.m., particularly if there is a camp that mommy traded in a few age-inappropriate leather mini's for cold hard cash in order to pay for that starts at 8:30. How could I have known how painful it is for a mother to wake a child from a deep, quiet slumber, if I hadn't been so motivated for you to learn archery?
Thank you for checking in with Daddy to laugh about all the driving mistakes Mommy made ...
3. Thank you for publicly wrestling me so hard while I tried to apply sunscreen that your arm nearly pulled out of its socket and caused me to spray it directly into your eyes, which prompted you to scream and howl like a bear whose ankle had been clamped by the metal jaws of a trap. I never liked that CVS anyway. The guards were very disrespectful to my parenting process.
4. Thank you for teaching me all the new clever catch phrases like, "Up high!" demonstrated by flying one hand in the air starting right under a scalding cup of coffee, followed by "In your face!" and "You're such a fail!" Let me not forget to mention all the variations on the word fart that I never would have spent time brainstorming to unearth.
5. Thank you for disregarding the less than glamorous hotel rooms we slept in so that we could have some affordable adventures, turning a blind eye to the polyester bedspreads and choking smell of ammonia in favor of the 18-hour-a-day Cartoon Network options. Same for the inedible free breakfasts, where it was revealed that a bottomless trough of sugar cereal is all you need to be truly happy.
6. Thank you for sticking by my side while I traveled to bookstores to promote my new book about the need for laughter in long-term marriage. Literally, by my side. How else would we have learned that there's nothing that makes people who are figuring out how to be happily married more self-conscious than sharing the intimate details of theirs lives with an expert and her 12- and 8-year-old sons. (Thank you also for retreating to the kids' section of the bookstore one time. And then returning with a purple teddy bear wearing a pair of tighty whiteys. I'm not above some prop comedy to break tension, boys. Well done!)
Thank you for fighting with each other every day between 3 and 8 p.m., underscoring with your disturbing, gutteral screams my desperate need for a break from all this mothering crap.
7. Thank you for checking in with Daddy to laugh about all the driving mistakes Mommy made traversing highways using WAZE on strange roads with intermittent cellular service or whatever airwave connection you need to make it so it doesn't tell you to make an essential left onto a junction with only one entrance after you've already passed it.
8. Thank you for staying up with your 90-year-old Aunt Thelma, so she could teach you how to play Gin and I could listen from the other room blinking back tears thinking about how much Aunt Thelma's brother, my father, would have loved you. And how you got Daddy's competitive spirit slamming cards down and screaming "Gin!" at a woman who, thank goodness, takes her hearing aides out after 7 p.m.
9. Thank you for fighting with each other every day between 3 and 8 p.m., underscoring with your disturbing, gutteral screams my desperate need for a break from all this mothering crap. And then just when I am reaching for a pillow to put over my face, running up and throwing your arms around my neck, now all warmed up from punching each other and thanking me for being a "cool," mom who uses bad words in traffic, makes you turkey burgers and plays cards with you even though I refuse to lie even when the whole point of the game is bluffing. And reminding me how darn lucky I am that all that silence from the previous decade was broken and that I get to witness you two troublemakers growing up.
And by "growing up," I think we all know what I mean: sleep-away camp.