I Am Her; They Are Me

You’re driving along in the car with her, heading to school or coming back from an activity. Perhaps she sends you a message or text. (Don’t worry Emma, the one you sent the other night remains our secret.) Maybe you simply walk in during one of her conversations with someone else.  You’re not mistaken. You did hear it. Well, not “it” as much as you…or me.  Me, myself and I…and her. Something said with seriousness or completely for comedic purposes validates in that very moment that she lives in you, you live in them and sometimes they seem just a tad bit more advanced than you ever were. Of course, in all fairness, we didn’t have the Internet.

The Dirty Dancing Main Stone Lodge

I’m reminded of a brief mother-daughter exchange from a scene in the movie “Dirty Dancing” that has remained with me over the years for some reason. It’s the summer of 1963 and the Housemans have just finished dinner that evening after arriving at Kellerman’s Resort, the fictional getaway in the Catskill Mountains reserved for affluent families.  Recognizing the amount of food left on the table Mrs. Houseman says “Look at all this leftover food. Are there still starving children in Europe?” Baby replies with a tone of correction “Try Southeast Asia mom.” So why am I reminded? Well, it’s typically not for reasons of social justice. And not even because it’s one of my all time favorite movies. No, I’m reminded simply because my daughters, like Baby Houseman, can respond so quickly to the errors made by their mother, as I’m sure I often did to my mother. But, I’m also reminded that my influence, while failing to meet its objective at times, is definitely making the journey to within, just as hers made to me.

So how does that play out in 2014 as opposed to the fictional 1963? Well, it’s been an unusually cold winter, as we’re all aware. As such, this perpetually cold mom prefers to have her driver’s seat warmed before braving the cold to bring Emma for the 3 – 5 minute round trip to and from school. During those frigid mornings (yes, it’s New Orleans, I know, get over it), I had taken to asking my sweet angel to run out into the cold, start my car, turn on the defroster if necessary, and of course, engage the heat and heated seats to full power! Emma prefers to get to school early so I used the warmth as my bargaining chip. You see, it’s REALLY hard to get me out of bed into a cold house, much less a cold car. Well, a couple of weeks ago I walked outside and noticed the car wasn’t running. I thought perhaps she had warmed it and then turned it off. I got in, noticed my seat was cold and stated with somewhat believable indignation “My seat’s not even warm!”. The social justice was then unleashed. In response, with utter disbelief in Anarctica Mapexpression and tone, my baby girl retorted “Some kids in Antarctica don’t even have warm. Don’t be rude and greedy Mother!” She didn’t even crack a smile. We continued our journey to school…in the cold.

While the comment was rooted in sarcasm…I was there. I was definitely there.  How else would she have known to compare my situation to that of the imaginary freezing children of Antarctica? Where else would she have heard countless considerations of other children over the course of her short life span? They are me. And I am her.

As my 12 year old baby girl and I often say…Indeed!

Life Before My Two Girls…Way Before!

Life with My 2 Girls does not exist in a vacuum. It’s not the story of my life with them, or theirs with me. It’s intended to offer a glimpse of who we are together as a family, and that story begins with who I was as part of my family. Life with My 2 Girls is an inclusive family forum, weaving in bits and pieces of those who have most influenced who I am. The “those” to which I refer are my mom and my dad.  Any articulation of who I am as a person, as a parent, or even who I still strive to be, will always be reflective of who they are as parents to me. Through these pages I introduce the two people who have most influenced and inspired everything I have as a maternal offering to life with my 2 girls.

...and then there was 4

…and then there were 4

My childhood was as eventful or uneventful as I chose it to be. You see, my parents already had their girl and their boy. They were happy, settled and balanced when 3+ years later came *accident #3, and another 3 years later, *accident #4 – that’s me.  My sister and I were given much more latitude and freedom than my oldest sister and only brother. I guess by the time we were in the teen years, my parents were parenting professionals and figured we didn’t need as much micro-managing as the others. Or perhaps the late 70s/80s were less worrisome than the early 70s. Not sure. I do know that this freedom we enjoyed was a coveted benefit, and one that had to be exercised with much responsibility…which it was for the most part. I can’t remember either of us, well, none of us actually, getting into trouble or hanging with the wrong crowd. It was all good.

What my parents did for me is allow me to be who I was supposed to be. They didn’t force me to be this, or do that, or get this grade or be in this club. (Besides, if I wanted a certain grade on something, I just asked dad for help and he usually took over the project and I went about my business doing the fun stuff a child does while he finished it.) I had to make decisions on my own about who and what I would be, and then be accountable to those decisions. Okay, so maybe allowing me to decide not to stay for the remainder of the 2 weeks at Camp Fire Girls’ Camp Wi-Ta-Wentin 3 hours away, requiring them to leave the rest of the family behind on July 4th to come get me because I was “homesick” was a bit much in the “freedom of choice” category, but you can have hamburgers any day of the week and I couldn’t handle 1 more day with the swimming/camp dictator making me do laps (otherwise presented as “homesickness” with sobbing for extra drama). That’s just responsible parenting!

Dad who drove 3 hours to Camp Wi-Ta-Wentin

Dad and me

As I reflect back, the only conclusion to be made is that I truly had a fun and love-filled childhood. There was never a summer without a family vacation. There was never an event that one or both didn’t attend. If a team needed a coach, mom or dad helped out.  Our big Christmas Eve party was such an anticipated event for me and others each year as they hosted family, friends and neighbors. We never missed Mardi Gras parades or Mardi Gras day – Dad had an amazing collection of doubloons. They introduced me to country music concerts in the Superdome as I got older.  They have always been young at heart, enjoying many activities with us and continuing on into their empty-nest years, like riding their bikes to the French Quarter or City Park via the ferry boat across the Mississippi River. They represented the best of middle-class, family-fun entertainment and togetherness. I still love every moment of time I get to spend with them. In fact, our friends enjoyed our parents as well and still do. They did their absolute best as parents…and still do.

Were they perfect? Absolutely not, and neither would allow me to ever profess such a statement. That’s just not who they are , but writing about imperfections serves no purpose for any of us beyond taking up valuable space that can be better served by sharing how those same imperfections allow us opportunities to fail so we can learn and grow and become that much more awesome. There are many things I do differently than they did simply because those decisions are aligned with the person I’ve become, which ironically, is built upon their many influences. My parents were very unobtrusive – I’m all up in the girls’ business, but because it’s how I show my love for them and concern for their well-being, just as my parents did, with a different approach. They rarely offered unsolicited advice or opinions – I must have received their combined supplies of both, but I still call my mommy and daddy exclusively with certain questions. They didn’t scrutinize my performance or grades – Olivia and Emma, quite unfortunately, are not shielded from such scrutiny, but no one shows more pride and celebration of my achievements than mom and dad ever did and still do!

3 Generations

3 Generations

What I most want to share about my my mom and dad is how incredibly appreciative they are of everything or anything they receive or have, always placing little value on material things. What they have consistently valued above all other earthly things is their relationship with their children. There is no better or more vivid image of unconditional love than that which my parents have unselfishly lavished upon each of us over the years. Olivia and Emma, for that characteristic that was graciously passed on to me, you can each thank your grandparents.

Always there for the girls

Always there for the girls

(Note: The term “accident” was replaced by my husband several years ago with the term “surprise” after he noted with great compassion how offensive the former sounded as opposed to the delight incited by the latter. It’s also important to note that the compassion was not directed to me, but to our daughter Olivia. Before my conversion, I occasionally referred to my dear first born child as an “accident”, but with no ill intent, which of course never negates the resulting impact to the person. I may have even made her aware that the “accident”, now known as a “surprise”, resulted from a sticker mixup in the Catholic sticker book.)