Saturday, March 22, 2014

What Was I Thinking?

Eight days ago we celebrated my oldest daughter's 26th birthday, and I wrote a post about how she reacted at age 13 to the news I was unexpectedly pregnant with my youngest daughter, Zoe.  She asked me "what was I thinking?"  What a fun day that was.  :)  Being unexpectedly pregnant, I'm sure I was thinking all kinds of things, but whatever they were, how happy I am now to have had Zoe Jean, who turns 12 years old today!  Happy Birthday, Zoe, my Rainbow Baby Bird!  How much joy you have brought us through the years: 












Friday, March 14, 2014

Feeding An Over Achiever

My first-born, Ariel Marie, reporter
 (this photo is either from her days at the "Trinitonian" or the
"San Antonio Express News," which overlap)

Way back in the fall of 2001 my then-husband and I sat down in the living room of our house to tell our two daughters that we were expecting.  We had cautiously waited a while to share the news after losing a baby 5 months in a few years before.  We blindly, stupidly, thought our 9 and 13 year old children would be thrilled, and Lacey, the ever- effervescent youngest but soon to be middle child of joy was all smiles.

Ariel was, as always, more, thoughtful. Her reaction to the news is one of the defining moments of my life.  She looked daggers at me and her father and said, "What were you thinking?!"

I was speechless, which is saying a lot. 

I know every mother says this, but Ariel Marie was an amazing baby.  Really having nothing to compare her to as a young 22 year old first time mother, I just thought she was pretty freaking high maintenance.  I remember watching the movie "Short Circuit" when Ariel was about 18 months old and thinking how much she and "Number 5" had in common.

"Input.  Input," said Number 5.
"More information, more stimulation," demanded toddler Ariel.

She seriously wore me out.  And I was young.  Toys were objects she inspected for merely minutes before being cast aside in favor of anything else new and interesting.  Everything, of course, was interesting to her but literally only for minutes. I spent 4 years providing constant input for this kid --when she was awake.  Thank God she was a good sleeper.  I read her every book we had, bought her as many more as we could afford and then read them all to her 1000 times again.  By age 3 she could read them to me.

I have no idea why I felt so compelled to feed this uncontrollable, relentless demand for input.  I was pretty young and self absorbed.  Call it a youthful, energetic, maternal instinct but whatever it was, it had to be done. And how incredibly rewarding it was, and so satisfying!  In went information and out came a phenomenal growing intelligence that was a joy to behold.  Again, having no comparison, I took it for granted that I had this over-achieving, genius child.

After Ariel was born I thought I was done with having kids.  Pregnancy sucked.  The lack of sleep, hallucinatory-infancy-stage sucked even more.  I gained 80 pounds when I was pregnant with Ariel but lost 100 pounds during the toddler years chasing after her in that never-ending quest for input. In more ways than one I felt like I was disappearing.  But one day I woke up with the life-changing thought that Ariel needed a sibling. Like any dumb young person who makes such momentous decisions in isolation of any real life experience, it was reckless.  But how lucky we were to have Lacey Allison, born 5 years after Ariel. 

Core to our family lore is that "we had Lacey for Ariel," and Lacey knows to whom she belongs. For most of their lives they have been irresistibly connected.  In June, when she turns 21, I will write about Lacey, our "Bunny."  About how loving she was from her first moment, how sweet, how clingy, how chill.  I was amazed again, but in a completely different way.  A child who wanted to sleep with the same toy every night night.  A child who was afraid to venture too far from keeping me in her line of sight.  How delightful!  No more missing child police alerts in the mall!  Oh thank you, Bunny! 

When Lacey was born Ariel was 5, and the 3 months between Lacey's very interesting arrival and the beginning of Kinder for Ariel were fast and furious. There was really no time for Ariel to get bored or jealous before she embarked on the new adventure of school.

The same thing happened when our third child, Zoe, was born in 2002 when Ariel was in the 8th grade.  The summer between Zoe being born ("What was I thinking?!") and Ariel starting high school were, again, fast and furious.  I felt secure, a second time, that this genius child, was adequately cared for, and catered to in school.   

School was created for kids like Ariel who soak up every bit of information, and who are a delight to their teachers.  Who never have to study for tests and whose homework always seems to be done, before you even ask.  Who sing in the choir, attain belt after belt in karate, join the debate club, make informed, steadfast decisions to become teenaged vegetarians, who decide to make an in depth study of all the major religions in high school, who read more books than their mothers and who edit the school newspaper. 

Ariel proceeded to blow away every test she's ever taken, effortlessly graduate from Trinity University with dual degrees in English and Communications and obtain a job as a reporter with the South Florida Sun Sentinel less than 6 months after college graduation in 2010.

Today Ariel turns 26 and I could not be more proud of her. I could practically burst from it!  So many of my dreams for her have come true and I am so happy for her. I'm a little sad that I don't get to see her on her birthday, because she lives so far away.  Another defining moment in my life was the day she came to the house to tell me that news:

Ariel:  "Mom, I'm moving to Florida."
Me:  "Ha ha, that's funny." 
Ariel:  "No really, I am.  The Sun Sentinel has offered me a job."
Me: Gulp.

That was the day I really understood that my kids wouldn't always be with me.  A few weeks after that conversation, she loaded up her u-haul, hooked her car up to its bumper and drove 1,400 miles away.  Since then she has settled into South Florida.  She's been 3 years on the job and lives in an apartment that's a few short blocks from the beach with her boyfriend, who appears to be a nice guy (his life's dream is to become a prosecutor and put bad guys away.)  She has also become very active in the Live Action Role Play (LARP) community. 

I look at Ariel through the lens of a proud mother who is happy when her child has turned out so well.  I think of her getting up in the morning and getting ready for work, making coffee, or grabbing it on the way, sitting at her desk at work or staying late at school board meetings she is covering.  I think about her grocery shopping with Eddie or ordering take out.  I think about her getting into costume for a LARP event.  My lens tells me how lucky we are, both of us, because, I know, especially in my line of work, that it doesn't always end up this way.

Outside of my lens, though, that happy story is in a different place.  Apparently not all of Ariel's dreams for herself have come true, and she is not exactly content. I should have known.  She is still Number 5 looking for that next better thing.  I have spent hours on the phone with her listening to her tell me that she is bored and/or "is getting older and hasn't accomplished anything!" It doesn't help that her father is pushing her to "get out of that loser career" (journalism) and leave that "freeloader boyfriend" (he is in law school and living with Ariel but supporting himself with student loans).  It's no wonder she often lacks confidence in herself and her decisions.

So, since Ariel still needs input, I've decided that I am going to send her Confidence for her birthday this year (and an Amazon gift card, of course), and I would ask that all our friends and family please join me in this endeavor - all your have to do is tell Ariel how amazing she is (if you know her, which I'm assuming anyone who reads this probably does).  Should you choose to embark on this mission here are some of the ways that you can tell her how amazing she is:
  • When I post this to FB - tell her in the comments how she is amazing (I will have tagged her in the post); she rarely goes on FB but I will send everyone's comments to her or entice her there
  • When I tweet this post, tweet her back that she is amazing (I will have tagged her twitter handle); she has been tweeting lately so this is a winner if you're a tweep
  • Text her (she probably wont reply though)
  • Call her (she never answers the phone but you could leave a message)
  • (I didn't say she was an amazing communicator even if she is a Communications major)
Ariel is pretty critical of her work, but she did tell me she felt good about this article she wrote last month if anyone is interested in the goings-on in Broward County Florida. 

One of my favorite pictures of Ariel, more here