Mama Bear

The hackles.. oye, the hackles. Just when I think I’m beyond this, it happens all over again.. and it’s never pleasant. However, tonight, the justification for my pointed and intense conversation with a teen aged son was too much to put aside. It had to be done–and it was.

A friend of his shared, with what I felt was great insensitivity, some of my son’s shortcomings. I know this because I was present. The ‘friend’ held nothing back in what I felt was a rude presentation involving his own opinion and what he called the opinions of others. I listened, incredulous, while my son, a young man dealing with his own awkward adolescence, soaked it all in. I could tell he was a bit embarrassed, disappointed, and yet anxious to learn social mores from his friend. Finally, I could no longer stay silent.

My first inclination was to turn around and slap the boy who was dispensing this vitriol with a sickening ‘I’m just trying to help,’ sweetness. Like hell, he was. I sensed his own bias and my blood boiled to a fever pitch. But, my son is a teenager, and mommy to the rescue is not the approach that will work in the long run. Instead I pointed out a few (not all) fallacies in the friend’s delivery. He backed off a bit, perhaps feeling he had overstepped a few bounds. Well, duh.

We dropped off the friend and my son was quiet, but not despondent. However, the damage had been done. A friend, someone he considers a good friend, didn’t shut up when he should have.

I felt hot tears behind my eyes.. and while my son seemed OK, I wasn’t. He heard things about himself, spoken under the guise of friendship, that should have never been said. I took a few moments alone and resolved to address this with him, even though he was on to something else.

I made him turn off the TV and look at me while I spoke. I wanted him to hear what I had to say and see me say it. I told him his friend had been rude and insensitive.. and that while there was a grain of truth to one aspect of his diatribe, most of it was bunk. I told him that if he never heard anything else I said to him as a teenager.. to hear this: there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t believe for a second you have to be like anyone else. Yes, you are quirky and individualistic. If people don’t get this about you and think you are weird, you don’t want to know them anyway. You will find your people and they’ll get you. Don’t think you have to be someone else–ever.

Somewhere in my venting, I used the wording of “not giving a rat’s ass about what someone else thinks.. but being true to yourself.” This made him smile. I rarely, if ever, use the word “ass”.. I made him look me in the eye and hear my tone. I wanted him to know I was deadly serious. I think he got it.

He will hear things others say about him.. all of us experience this.  I can’t stop that. But I can teach him how to process them.. and provide him with tools to deal with criticism– warranted or not.

To me, tonight’s episode felt like an attack on my child. I can only imagine how it felt to him. Although, boys handle these situations with more detached indifference than girls. But I saw in his eyes what I saw.. and my heart would not allow it to just sit there and become worse, without some sort of parental intervention. He is, after all.. only 14.. hardly equipped to sluff off such things without at least some degree of consideration.

Someone attacking your young is so much worse than an assault on oneself. I hated this.. but after setting the record straight with my boy, it feels cleaner, better.. and more hopeful than just letting him sit in the sludge doled out earlier this evening.

He will see and associate with this friend.. but an adult he trusts has given him the truth about what was said. Maybe it will help. My heart can hope.


Every Ten Years

Age 4: Adored by my older siblings, drama queen, Daddy’s girl, hate having my hair washed.

Age 14: Massive crush on Omar Sharif, have seen Dr. Zhivago in the theater 11 times, hate that my mom makes me cut my long hair, get braces, take a trip to California, Nevada and Utah with my blonde, nubile older sister. She appears on Let’s Make A Deal and wins a boat, while I sit in the audience and watch her do it.

Age 24: Mother of one, married to a nice man, worrying that I’m not doing it right, canning fruit, cleaning house and baking cookies. I’m loving it all–even the worrying.

Age 34: Mother of four, still married to the nice man but it’s shaky, addicted to tanning, compulsive shopping, loving mothering, still baking cookies and worrying.

Age 44: Mother of five, grandmother of one, hanging onto sliding marriage, children leaving home, wanting to write and run, feeling guilty about everything, best friend fighting breast cancer, looking for something I can’t find, still baking cookies and loving mothering, but afraid of what happens when it’s only me and the nice man left at home.

Age 54: Working writer, divorced mother of five, grandmother of three, administrative assistant, rarely feel guilty, hardly ever bake cookies, still see movies in the theater multiple times, wear my hair long, my best friend is still alive in the world, constantly trying to face fears, still friends with the nice man, enjoying single life for now, but looking forward to another nice man someday, figuring out how to mother older children, grateful, happier than before, anticipating, tasting, relaxing more than ever.


It’s all about dreaming lately. Not sure why. No, wait.. I am sure why. There are things I want to do.. and in my own bumbling way, I’m figuring them out–with the help of

Recently, I ordered a few items and it wasn’t until later I saw the pattern in my purchases.. and I have to admit it surprised and delighted me a little.

Carolyn See’s memoir, Dreaming: Hard Luck And Good Times In America, is a book I’ve wanted to read for a long time. These pages are brutal and excruciatingly honest– sometimes making them hard to read. But that didn’t stop me from inhaling all 300 pages of this book like a new lover. When I wasn’t reading it I wanted to be. When I was, I didn’t want to stop. See has me hooked. Her colorful, wild life is what prompted the book’s final sentence: “It has to do with dreaming, inventing, imagining, yearning, and there’s more of it–like blue smoke–in the American Dream than we’re ever, ever, going to be able to acknowledge or admit.”

Can’t Stop Dreaming by Daryl Hall (Hall and Oates) is a CD I’ve had on my mind for awhile, too.

Hall’s vocals are urgent, and his serpentine voice glides over the scale and back again in an instant. He makes it sound easy. I’ve been a fan of his forever. And whaddaya know–the cuts are almost all about dreaming! There’s even one I think Hall must have included as an homage to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On? He calls it All By Myself. Oooooh baby.

I loved these purchases. However, there’s another item, even meatier and more interesting in some ways, that scares me a little. I think it’s because it requires more of the recipient than just breathing or listening–it wants us to participate. And particularly because of this book’s origins and my own dreaming–I want to.

You Can Do It–The Merit Badge Handbook For Grownup Girls by Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas is a celebration of her life that, although was ultimately put together by her sisters, was conceptualized by Lauren. She had the idea in the works when her life ended abruptly on United flight 93 on September 11, 2001. Her sisters, Vaughn Lohec and Dara Near kept Lauren’s dream alive by completing a book she undoubtedly would have loved.

Merit badges range from sky diving to knitting to learning how to negotiate. Each one features a mentor who dishes out inspiration and instruction, complete with a sticker merit badge to put wherever you want. This book reminds me that although I’m not particularly interested in trying everything within its pages, there’s a world of creativity and challenge that awaits those wanting to live fully.

What Catuzzi-Grandcolas’s book invites me to do is think not only outside the box, but everywhere that’s NOT the box. It encourages me to live my dreams.. and maybe even a few things that weren’t ever on that list, but might be fun to try.

When dreaming becomes tangible, whether in books we are drawn to, music we seek out or activities that invite personal risk, we need to listen. It’s easy to fall into insentience.. to barely keep up with the status quo. No wonder we find ourselves unconsciously watching the Frasier marathon on Lifetime. Life’s too much to handle sometimes.

But that’s because we forget to dream. Dreaming isn’t about lamenting something we never get. It’s about nudging us to action..