I’m Funner Than That Now

When we lived in Denver – around 1999 – Nick and I saw Paul Simon and Bob Dylan in concert. We were huge Paul Simon fans and decided that, so long as Dylan was there too, it might be kind of cool to see such a legend perform – but we definitely didn’t attend the show because of an abiding love for ol’ Bob. When all was said and done, it was kind of cool to see him perform (and kind of fascinating/scary to see his fan base losing their minds when he came on stage), but we still felt the same after the show that we’d felt before going in: he’s one heckuva songwriter, but we could do without having to listen to him.

One of my favorite Dylan songs is titled “My Back Pages” whose chorus contains the lyrics,

Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

When I first heard them in high school, I thought those words were deep and meaningful and poetic, so I latched onto them because it seemed the intellectual, teen-angsty thing to do. As I grew, I learned to appreciate the song lyrics from a different perspective (and lo, I’d thought I was so wise back then… but nay, now realize how foolish I was… IRONIC JUSTICE, MR. DYLAN).

I don’t necessarily feel younger now than I did when I was, well, younger, but in many ways, I do feel more fun.

Case in point: at Emi and Matt’s wedding, I got drunk. I could phrase it nicely and say I was over-served or that I had too much to drink, but if I’m being honest, I got drunk. I was silly and loud and danced in ways that I didn’t know my body could move (and maybe shouldn’t have moved) for hours on end, all the while having an absolute ball. Later, I apologized to my mother-in-law for my nutty dance moves, and remarked that this was the first time she’d ever seen me even a little bit tipsy — the first time in twenty years. (That’s not because I hid my debauchery from her for all those years, but rather because, up until quite recently, I rarely drank at all, and certainly didn’t get drunk.) Her response? “You were having so much fun out there. I loved it!”

wedding dance14
Yep, that’d be me on the floor (in the lei) doing… I have no idea what. But I was having a fabulous time, that’s for sure.

Back in high school, it never crossed my mind to have even a sip of alcohol. This wasn’t some moral or religious stance, nor was it something my friends and I discussed – we didn’t head up the Substance Free committee or sit around denouncing the evils of beer – but it just didn’t happen when we were hanging out. I knew other kids drank, sure, but I wasn’t into it. When I got to college, I had the occasional drink – and even, on very rare occasions, drank enough that I could be considered more than slightly buzzed – but, overall, I really wasn’t interested.

In fact, I was sort of proud of not wanting to have alcohol. I don’t need to drink to have a good time! I can do all of the other absurd and moronic things that college students do without alcohol to fuel it! (And, oh, I did…) But there was more to it than that; although I never said so out loud, I definitely looked down on people who did drink. Oh, you’re getting together and having a few? Hm. Too bad you can’t enjoy one another’s company without it revolving around libations.

And so it continued through my twenties. I drank every so often, became marginally inebriated maybe once every three or four years, and quietly passed judgment on everyone who consumed alcohol – including my family and friends. Certain circumstances warranted the booze, of course – weddings and bachelorette parties, for example, so long as you never drank to excess. It was also acceptable to have the infrequent glass of wine or beer with dinner, provided that you drank it slowly and stopped well before you began to feel the effects. I’d thumb through Hallmark cards for friends’ birthdays and would scoff at how many of them contained casual mention of wine. Is this really the way that people connect? How sad.

Then, around ten years ago, something began to change. Maybe it was the birth of Eleanor, maybe it was just growing up and meeting more people who looked at life differently than I do – but who, I discovered, were (miraculously!) still good, smart, honest, hardworking, likable, trustworthy people… but I no longer began thinking that it was so awful to have a drink every now and again. My knowledge of alcohol was limited to what I’d known in college and shortly thereafter – Boone’s and Natty Lite and wine coolers and frou-frou girly drinks – which tasted like perfumed bath water, so I took it upon myself to become more knowledgable about all manner of spirits.

Nick was really into craft and local beers, so I learned about those. Realizing how woefully ignorant we were about wines, we took a couple of wine courses; we’re hardly experts now, but we have a pretty good idea of how wines are made, what the different varietals taste like, and – most importantly – what we like (and don’t like) and why. We took cooking classes specifically geared toward how to pair alcohol with food, learning how each brings out the goodness of the other (if you pair them correctly). It was… really fun.

As I discovered what alcoholic beverages I enjoyed (no more Bartles and Jaymes, thank God), I began to drink more often, too. A glass with dinner went from a semi-annual occasion to a semi-weekly occasion. I started to find the wine-themed birthday cards funny. I also began to understand how fabulous it could be at the end of the day, when I’d been puked on and broken up three fights and dropped the milk in the checkout line and both girls had a fever, to sit down with a drink. A drink drink.

Necessary? Nope. Delicious and wonderful? Oh heck yes.

Finally, I learned that it is sometimes just really damned enjoyable to drink enough to feel it. I’d never understood that before – why on earth would anyone want to lose themselves? To feel wobbly or spinny or crazy? To not be in control (which, quite frankly, seemed scary as hell)? Well… maybe because it’s (wait for it)… fun. It can be incredibly freeing to lose yourself for a couple of hours, to momentarily forget what’s bothering you. It can be wonderful to have your pain temporarily lessened, your heartache soothed, your worry eased. It can be simply marvelous to laugh more quickly, to smile more often, to make connections with everyone around you. It can be delightful to let go of your carefully-constructed control, like releasing an enormous breath you didn’t realize you were holding.

(Lest I give you the wrong impression, I’m not, in any way, saying that I now think you need to drink alcohol in order to have a good time, that drinking to excess on any sort of regular basis is okay, or that relying on alcohol is okay. Drinking problems are not something to be taken lightly; alcoholism is a serious and heartbreaking disease, much like depression. Drinking and driving is never, ever acceptable. Just so we’re clear.)

To many (most?) of you, this is ludicrously obvious. Um, yep. People drink because they enjoy it. People sometimes drink too much on purpose because they like it. You’re just figuring this out now?

Well, not now now, but more or less, yes. I am just figuring it out, and it’s one helluva realization. More importantly than discovering that I like Sauvignon Blanc, however, I have (finally) stopped thinking negatively of everyone else who’s out there enjoying their wine and beer and cocktails. And, as a result, we have a lot more fun together! Not because I drink more often than I used to – the alcohol isn’t really the point – but because I’ve stopped being quite so uptight and judgmental, in general.

For years, I’d been so caught up on Doing The Right Thing and Following The Rules that I didn’t even realize how much those were, ironically, doing just the opposite. By attempting to Do The Right Thing and Follow The Rules, I wound up judging everybody around me about just about everything that differed from my Right Things and Rules. These days, I’m working on taking that judgment out of every single thing (although, I’m not gonna lie, it’s totally still there, just not everywhere). It’s hard and it’s shitty sometimes because, damn it, being all judgey is easy and, in a crazy way, makes me feel good because it’s neat to feel superior (ew). But it’s so worth it because, frankly, living atop that high horse was awfully difficult; the view sucked because I was so far away, and the balancing was exhausting.

wedding dance15
Getting down on my knees and…serenading?… was also exhausting, but for different reasons.

It used to be that Annie and Ella had to eat a certain way, all the time. The Right Way, of course, which included specific amounts of fruits and vegetables and whole grains and an avoidance of nearly all crappy foods. I hid veggies in baked goods and watched them like hawks around relatives (so they couldn’t be slipped anything unsavory). My sisters-in-law still recall how I was so determined to get my kids to eat “right,” I used to call fruit purees “special sauce” so I could trick the girls into eating them. I WAS A TOTAL BLAST, AMIRIGHT?

Then, it became too much. And, in truth, I just plain grew up. So now, yeah, their diets are still pretty darn healthy. They read labels and avoid HFCS and even count grams of sugar. But they also have dessert every single day. They eat anything they want all day long at the Minnesota State Fair each year. They – gasp! – order soda when we go out. And they’re allowed to have full-on junk food days when they’re with their relatives. Screw The Rules! Which, hands down, is a helluva lot more fun.

The girls used to have to go to bed at a certain time; we were militant with our bedtimes and nap times, and I certainly judged anyone who took their still-young-enough-to-be-strapped-into-the-cart child to Target with them at 9 p.m. on a school night. (Well, I guess they just don’t care about instilling proper sleep habits. Tsk tsk.) Now, Ella and Annie still have a bedtime – it’s not just a free-for-all over here – but it’s more fluid. They stay up later some nights and go to bed far earlier on others. And it is FUN, I tell you. FUN! (Except when I allow them to stay up too late reading Harry Potter and they’re emotional disasters the following day; oops.) I don’t even look twice anymore if someone has their infant in the grocery store at midnight (well, maybe I look twice, but that’s mostly because I’m doing a double take wondering what the hell I’m doing in the grocery store at midnight). FUN, FUN, FUN.

I used to be absolutely un-budge-able with our Christmas traditions (nearly all of which I’d adopted from my own childhood, with Nick’s approval). This is how we do it, because it is always how we’ve done it, end of story. The mere thought of altering tradition made me break out in a cold sweat. But then, one year, things weren’t going to plan (Christmas will be ruined!) and Nick suggested another way and I got down off the horse just enough to actually listen to him and, whaddya know, change can be good… and it can make Christmas much more enjoyable for everyone.

I know that I’ll ever stop passing judgment; it’s an all-too-human trait and I accept that about myself, as much as I’m trying to do better. But I do know that it feels really nice to become less uptight and unfaltering, to realize that my perspective isn’t the only one that’s valid (although it usually is pretty fantastic), to try to be a little less narrow-minded. Instead of feeling scary and uncontrolled and wild, it feels freeing and relaxing and fun.

Sometimes, growing up has its perks.

If only I could stop looking down on anyone who misuses “nauseous” or “literally,” or on any kind of reality TV that involves a Kardashian, a bachelor(ette), anything set in New Jersey, or a real housewife, I bet I would be a freaking HOOT.

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: When I Grow Up

june girlies being cute
 
June 2009

“I can’t wait to grow up!”

She is insistent, indignant. Her words burst forth with a combination of excitement and frustration.

Why can’t you wait to grow up?

“Because then I’ll be able to do exactly what I want all day long!”

Unable to stop myself, I recall some of the lyrics to “When I Grow Up,” a song from Matilda, The Musical:

When I grow up, I will be tall enough to reach the branches that I need to reach to climb trees you get to climb when you’re grown up
And when I grow up, I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to before you’re grown up.

And when I grow up, I will eat sweets everyday on the way to work and I will go to bed late every night
And I will wake up when the sun comes up and I will watch cartoons until my eyes go square and I won’t care cause I’ll be all grown up

When I grow up

I will be strong enough to carry all the heavy things you have to hold around with you when you’re a grown up.
And when I grow up I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown up

I empathize with her sentiment; who among us didn’t wish to grow up faster, right now!, to be an adult and not have all of that terrible kid-stuff to worry about? (In particular, I was eager to have my own phone – the corded kind that attaches to the wall – and to be able to watch R-rated movies, which seemed to me to be the height of maturity.)

“I wouldn’t have to do homework. I wouldn’t have to eat fruits or vegetables before I can eat my crunchy snack. I’d be able to have a car and a license and drive anywhere I want.”

She can’t see what I see: that she is growing up, so freakishly fast, it makes me catch my breath. She and her sister, both; they’re outgrowing their clothes, they care about their hairstyles and dress wearing clothing that “makes {them} look good,” they correctly use complex words and phrases that I didn’t even know they knew, and they are worried about hungry children in the world.

————

This is not bad, really, not at all. Nick and I are truly fortunate to have loved each age they have been – six and eight were great, seven and nine are even better, and I imagine that eight and ten will be really peachy. Just yesterday, Nick and I were chuckling and groaning over a Buzzfeed collection of “The Thirty Five Dumbest Things That Have Ever Happened” – Tweets and Facebook posts about things like people complaining about being stuck on an escalator that stopped running (??) or asking where the Brazil World Cup is going to be held (omg). The girls pestered us to tell them what was so funny, and we were hesitant at first, thinking that they wouldn’t even understand the vast majority of the references much less why they were funny… But they got it! They thought they were hilarious (which also means that my seven and nine year olds are smarter than a lot of really stupid adults, holla!). And I marveled to Nick how incredible this was – sharing these moments, these times that would not have been possible even maybe a few months ago, because our girls are growing up into real, amazing humans and it is just so very cool.

But, oh… it’s so very fast. There are hardly any words that they confuse or mispronounce anymore, and although they still enjoy being held and carried, they’re getting awfully heavy (or I’m getting weaker). I know, it’s such a cliché, the whole It All Goes By So Quickly thing, and I know that I’ve commented on it before… but it doesn’t make it any less true now than it was then.

In fact, the older they get, the more quickly time seems to speed by.

And as for that whole wanting-to-be-a-grown-up thing… Well, shit, honey. In the past two weeks alone, we have drawn up and signed our wills, started the process of getting life insurance, had the lawn mower break (while mid-mow), had the vacuum cleaner break, brought the car in for two recalls, DUCT TAPED a portion of the underbelly of said car onto the bumper so it will stop dragging on the ground, cleaned up vomit, and pondered why the overhead lights in the kitchen mysteriously keep going out despite replacing the bulbs even after having the electrician out.

On each of those occasions, I have – no joke – looked around for the actual adult in charge so that s/he can take responsibility for the deed… only to discover that, through some practical joke the universe is playing, *I* am the adult in charge. HOW IN THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN??

—————

I watch her brush her teeth, resisting the urge to step in and tell her that she’s missed a spot, and ponder the song lyrics again. I am, indeed, tall enough to reach many of the branches, but my body isn’t quite nimble enough to climb the trees the way I used to. I do, in fact, eat sweets every day and stay up way too late, but those things aren’t really working out so well for me in the long run. I don’t wake up with the sun all that often, and I’m not watching too many cartoons, but my eyes definitely go square after a “Modern Family” marathon and it is so totally worth it. (There are some benefits to being grown…)

As far as the answers to the questions, I still don’t have those – not nearly. I am strong, yes, but sometimes the weight of all of the heavy things I am carrying threatens to send me to my knees. And I try to fight the creatures beneath the bed, but I rarely feel brave.

Being grown up is not all it’s cracked up to be.

first and last days
First and last days, 2010

They are nearly done with school, my girls. This is both wonderful and terrifying, the open expanse of summer already looming ominously while simultaneously seeming too short. By the time the nine weeks have gone, they will be a grade older, even more grown up, with the days having flashed by in an instant.

———–

I hug her before she goes to sleep and then put my hands squarely on her shoulders. You need to stop growing, I tell her.

She giggles. “I can’t, Mama!”

No, I’m serious. I love that you’re getting older, I love all that we can do together. I think you’re one of the greatest kids on the planet and I’m so thankful that you are mine.

“Um, thanks.” She is embarrassed but obviously pleased.

But, seriously. It’s happening too fast. You’re getting too old. Please stop growing.

“MOM!!” She’s actually laughing now. “I CAN’T!!”

Could you at least promise me you’ll try?

“But I WANT to get bigger!”

I know. I want you to, too. Could you at least slow it down a little?

“I don’t think so.”

That’s not very nice of you.

“MOM!!

Well, can I at least have another hug, then?

“No.”

What??

“You can have two!”

——-

I feel her arms pressing into my shoulders and back, notice their weight on me exactly, trying to take this in so I will always remember perfectly how this feels.

After she’s asleep, I check on her before I turn in myself, kissing her cheek and smoothing her hair. Then I look underneath her bed – just in case – and, for a moment, feel the tiniest bit brave.