Is this where he left you?

“When I grow up, I want to cook for my family”

That’s my daughter Marilyn talking. She’s four (and a half. The half is very important). She hates practically every food except chocolate, and her mom (that would be me) cooks what my son lovingly calls ‘hospital eggs’ (because that’s how bland they are) and very little else. So her random proclamation caught my attention.

“And my kids, they will have both a mommy, and a daddy. Like Sam, and Judah and me.” she continued talking at me. “But not like you mommy. You have no daddy.”

There are moments in parenting when a sticky subject will pop up, you will not be prepared, and all the shower-talks you’ve had with yourself about how you will handle this water-shed moment will evaporate, you will be left with a sand paper tongue and no where to run. This was one of those moments.

I wanted to press that elusive ‘pause’ button. It’s the button I wish I had mid-temper-tantrum with my seven year old so I could gather my patience before I put him up for sale on craigslist, or when they are playing; the three of them, so sweetly with one another and I know if I move to grab my camera, the spell will be broken and someone will knock someone else’s block off. Someone should invent one of those pause buttons.

‘Of course I have a daddy.’ I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t want to confuse her, because for Marilyn, “Daddy” is a sacred word. Daddy is the person who will let her jump on the bed, who will make her a peanut butter and fluff sandwich, who tells her how proud he is of her when she does something important, and even when she does something not so important. He is the guy who drives her to school each day and picks her up each afternoon, the kisser of boo-boos, the person who gives nicknames and bear hugs. Daddy is the one who will continue to play ‘chase around the house’ long after Mommy has lost interest. She will tell you all these things, but she will leave something off the list, something that I, as a child, would have loved to take for granted; Daddy Lives here.

The idea of a daddy who simply is not present in his daughters life does not compute for Marilyn. She does not understand that while my father is not dead, he has ceased to be. I can see her wheels spinning when I tell her that my mommy and daddy could not live together, they fought a lot, and so they got divorced. She understands that. She knows kids who have parents who live in different homes. But the idea of a daddy who just doesn’t come around at all? That doesn’t make sense.

The reasons behind my parents divorce are private and unimportant to this story, but the bare details are that it happened when I was eight years old, and after that I was a very angry child for a long time. By the time I was 15 I no longer communicated with my father on any level. I could mudsling and accuse and explain and defend the reasons, but the truth is, it also doesn’t matter to this story.

After inquiring as to whether or not I had any photos of my father, Marilyn and I sat cross-legged in my bedroom and searched, but we couldn’t find any. As I put back piles of photos, Marilyn held one in her hands, studying it intently. When I asked her what photo she had she turned it around, it was a photo of little me, sitting in my old living room where I grew up.

“Is this where he left you?” Marilyn asked me very matter of fact.

I would have identified with that statement, as a kid, as a teenager. I did feel left. Abandoned. No one asks to be a child of divorced parents, and in 1992 I felt like the only kid in the whole world whose parents were humiliating her to death by daring to be unhappy, and doing something about it. I don’t feel that way anymore, every one deserves to have a chance at a happy life, because this is the only one we get. If being a family man wasn’t what my father wanted, well, he missed out on me, and I’m a pretty okay person. He missed out on my kids, and they are incredible people. That’s his loss, but only I get to choose how I let that affect the rest of my life.

I didn’t expect her to understand this though. I barely understood it until recently.

“That’s the house he used to live in. Yes.” I told her. And then I quickly pulled out another photo, a warm summer in North Carolina with her Daddy and I hugging in the shadows of a store front. “And this is where I found your Daddy.” And then a photo of my three children sitting on the couch “And this is where all my love is.”

Marilyn smiled. “I guess it’s okay then. Because sometimes things are sad. But most of the time, things are happy.” Expectations exceeded.

The moral of this story is that there is no moral. The conversation isn’t over, all the questions have not been answered. But for today, Daddy remains the hero in all the legends, the guy who makes the best pancakes, the strongest man in the world, the worst pony-tail-maker ever and the best person I could have picked to prove to me, our kids, and the world, that there is a difference between Fathers, and Daddies, and good men, never walk away.



Sanity: You got it, or you don’t ?

I hate 93% of winter. Let me just get that out of the way, okay? And I consider winter, not from December 21st till the first day of Spring, but any day, at any time of the year when the temperature drops below 50F.

I don’t care if it’s still technically Fall in October and November when it’s 32, or 45, or 49 degrees. It’s technically fucking cold. So therefore, it is Winter.

There are about two weeks in which I enjoy Winter, and it is when all of you who celebrate Christmas, put lights on your houses and actually seem jovial about getting frostbite in order to do so. It’s when you dare hypothermia to invade your bodies in order to do all of that outdoorsy stuff, in the name of the Season. I don’t get it but I like those weeks, I like to vicariously enjoy those things, through you.

So thanks!

But by the 2nd of January? I feel like, by then we’re all in the same boat. All of us collectively shooting Winter, snow, the sad tree with the falling pine needles, the pot holes in the roads and the weatherman (especially the weatherman), the death stare.

By February, of which it is now, I start questioning my sanity, and most of yours. So I thought we could just have a little chat, in which I tell you some things that have recently happened to me, and you can either rest assured that I am in fact, losing it, and you aren’t, or join me when the men in white suits carts me off to Happy Acres. Okay? Great!

Why is it, that in the early of November, when the temperature dips into those dreaded below 50F I feel the undeniable urge to jam my children into All The Layers of clothes? Gloves, hats, face masks, scarves, sweaters, coats, snow boots, all of it. But by February, when the wind is actually raw? When it’s not less then 50F but less than 10F? When thirty degrees feels like a heat wave?  They are leaving the house with unzipped jackets and one glove and I couldn’t give less of a shit. “It will build up your immune system!” I call after them as they leave the house.  

I have winter burn-out.

In December my children are like little sardines in their winter gear, like A Christmas Story reincarnation in which neither of them can put their arms down, buckle themselves into their car seats or do anything with even a modicum of helpfulness. But not in February, in February I am throwing them to the wolves, urging them to will it to be Spring by their jacket-neglect.

Winter makes me lazy, you guys. During the rest of the year I am craft mom. Marilyn comes home nearly every day and sits on the little ottoman tucked under our living room desk and crafts to her hearts content. That little artist inside of her just blossoms under my gifted craft-store finds and scores, but I hate leaving the house in winter, so our supplies have dwindled to the lamest of lame.

Marilyn is four and doesn’t understand that craft supplies don’t just magically appear in our craft closet. So when she asks me ‘Mommy, can we do cool art today?’ I know I am in trouble. Cool art you see, requires cool crafts. Of which I am fresh out. What she is really asking me is ‘Mommy, can you stop letting me down and disappointing my fragile girl heart and go to the G.D craft store already?!’.

So. Normal parents might tell their sweetest Angel ‘Mommy is so sorry, but she didn’t have time today. Maybe tomorrow.’ or maybe ‘Mommy hates winter, so you’ll get new crafts come Spring, here, have a marker.’ or something similar, right? Can I get an Amen? But not me. No. I shifted the blame to the craft store. (Sorry Michael’s…) and told her “They ran out of cool crafts. As a matter of fact, they ran out of all the crafts.”

Now Marilyn hates Michael’s. But doesn’t hate me. Crisis averted.

Marilyn has no idea what is actually in our craft closet anymore, in the basement, because of another choice I made in my winter burn-out state of mind. I made Marilyn afraid of the basement. And I kind of did it accidentally on purpose.

We’ve talked about it before, we’re Jewish. Ta-da and Surprise!
So the holiday season of Christmas is this magical light filled fun-fest that my kids don’t get to exactly participate it. (I know, so sad, pray for them.) But they know who Santa is, and Marilyn was down right obsessed with him this past year.

We do celebrate this other holiday, you might know it as the ugly step sister to Christmas, it’s called Hanukkah, and there are presents! You might identify with this problem: How do we hide presents for birthdays or holidays without giving away the place we are hiding them, so our children don’t poke their dirty little noses in and spoil it all? Well that’s right! We scare the shit out of them. Oops!

The only proper place for me to hide presents is in the boiler room in our basement. But the door doesn’t lock. So since my kids don’t really need the basement for much, I just made it off limits for the time I needed it.

Unfortunately off limits doesn’t compute for Marilyn and in her head actually becomes must go down to basement. (Funny! Right? How those things happen?). I don’t have a Santa or an Elf on the Shelf to warn (re: threaten) Marilyn with (kudos to whoever created that creepy fellow), but Santa happens to have an evil brother by the name of The Krampas. In one of my deliriously under slept days (thanks to my one year old) when Marilyn wanted to do the dreaded cool art, which is all located (or not located, since I hate winter and haven’t gone to the craft store) in the basement, I told her that Santa’s brother Krampas lived down there.

I might have twisted the story, just a bit, to tell her that while Santa delivered toys to good boys and girls who celebrated Christmas, that the Krampas instead, watched over Jewish children who didn’t listen to their parents around Hanukkah, and ate them, and by the way, he lives in our basement.

It’s February, and she still won’t go into the basement without me. What was I thinking?

Sanity it’s such a funny thing, right? I never imagined it could ebb and flow so fluidly. I thought it was just something you either had, or lacked. There are days when we get dinner timed right, and stories read, and snuggles in, and all the kids are clean, fresh and in bed on time, leaving my husband and I enough time to both fall asleep while watching tv before 10:30pm. On those days, I figure; I have sanity. Then there are days when I go down to where the Krampas lives/the basement to do a load of laundry and my sewer has backed poop water into my laundry room, and then I find a huge hairy centipede in one of my kids’ closets, and I  envision burning the house down to ensure it is dead. On those days, I figure I don’t have it.

I swear I am a decent mother. But one day Sam is going to be asked how he became such a wonderful roller blader, and ice skater and he’s going to tell whomever asks that he taught himself. Because his mother refused to come out of the house during winter and play with him. I know, there is a special seat in Hell just roasting with my name on it, and hopefully, you’ve identified with some of this, and maybe you’ll come sit next to me.