Tag Archives: #guilt

Looking Up

12 May

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There is a reason I’ve never tried Candy Crush. Or Farmville. Or Meth. I know myself well enough to know that those things, like their predecessors (except for the Meth) could become obsessions.

One summer during college, I became a basement-playing Mario Brothers freak. (On ColecoVision no less.) Every day, I made my way downstairs and played endlessly in the darkness. I was late to my waitressing job. I messed up orders because I was singing the Mario Bros. music in my head. I grew thumb callouses. I had a problem. I don’t recall if it ended because I developed a Vitamin D deficiency or because I could have been mistaken for goth or because my mother finally ripped it out of the wall. Regardless, I was one step away from an intervention.

In law school, I became hooked on Solitaire. Once again, I was up until 3 am feeding my new bad habit. I even missed a few classes due to oversleeping after a late-night solitaire binge. Different hands were laid out in my mind as I would try to study. The warning signs were all there. One night, I took all the cards in my apartment, like a loving relative collecting all the drugs they could find, and threw them down the incinerator. It was time to get out of that crack house.

A few years later, as a working attorney, I found myself playing solitaire, but this time on the computer (no shuffling! twice the fun!). Although I had important things to do, like write memoranda of law and conduct depositions, Solitaire was pretty important too. Until I realized, once again, I was becoming a terrible Lifetime movie. I called the MIS Department and advised them to remove the game from my computer. “And make sure you really get rid of it because I’ll find it somewhere if it’s just hidden in another file or the recycling bin.” It was finally gone. Ridiculous.

In 2004, my mind started to soften after having children. My husband suggested I try Sudoku. He should really have known better. I became super good at Sudoku what with all those hours of daily practice I was getting in. And of course, it wasn’t long before my husband had to ban all search engines from retrieving any result with the word “Sudoku” in it. That was a close one.

In 2009, I became a Brick Breaker champ. With sweaty hands, at 2 am, and a house full of sleeping normal people, I finally beat all the levels. I wanted to wake my husband and tell him. But I also wanted to live. I waited until 6 am. He didn’t see it as the accomplishment I did but he was a player himself. It made him more competitive Brick Breaker-wise but I was over it. I went to the Verizon store (which shows just how desperate I must have been because that is a trip to hell and back), and had them remove Brick Breaker from my phone. They had never done this before and had to call headquarters for instructions. Then again, they probably never met a loser like me so it was a day of Firsts for the Verizon lady.

Most recently, and probably not as surprising, I have developed a small addiction to the internet and more particularly, social media. I am not proud. This addiction comes at the expense of my family. It is certainly fodder for jokes but I cringe to think of moments I may have missed, memories I could have made, smiles I could have seen, talks I could have had. There have been too many times I have gotten lost in the lives of strangers instead of those of my own children. I have been looking down when I should have been looking up.

Last week, I was working on the blog post “Thank You For Being a Friend” and my 11 year old son called for me. After the 3rd or 4th time he screamed “Mom” I tiptoed into his room (where his twin brother was soundly sleeping) and crawled into his bed. He turned his back to me, and in his small voice said these words that I will not forget:

“Mom, I kept calling you. You keep saying one second, one second. Eventually, I’m not going to trust you anymore.”

And there it was: a ColecoVision console; a deck of cards; a Sudoku grid; a roving Brick Breaker ball bouncing off meaningless blocks and taking time away from the people I love the most.

He was right and it broke my heart. Trust is a funny thing. Some people come with it, some people have to earn it. To me, it is a commodity in all respects. It should be a given, however, that a boy can trust his mother. If he lost that trust, could he regain it? I can’t even contemplate the genuinely sad different scenarios that could play out. And I won’t. Instead, I will change. I don’t want to lose any more minutes with this boy who writes me love notes, enjoys my fondness for pranks, and waits up every night for me to sneak into his bed for one last cuddle.

My son is pretty damn smart. In one sentence, he summed up a horrible failing of mine and I hadn’t even put out a suggestion box. And thank goodness because I have years ahead of me to enjoy him and his brothers and my husband and a beautiful sunny day and a great song and the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. From now on, the only obsession I will allow myself to nurture is my family. I’m not deleting the internet just yet. I’m just going to look up.

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The F*U

26 Apr

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My son has not had an easy year. Neither have I. It is so difficult to watch someone you love struggling with something you want nothing to do with. He is not prone to complaining, which has made his tears that much more terrible to witness.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was simply the flu.

“Mrs. Goodwin, your son’s temperature is 103. You need to pick him up.”

That morning he was fine. He was fine all the other mornings too. Everything seems to come out of nowhere. And that is why, on the afternoons and evenings and middle-of-the-nights of those days, the mornings always look so normal and beautiful.

My son is delicious and unique and lovable and brilliant and determined and kind and good. He needed to be well for so many reasons, least of which was just handling a flu virus. We sat outside the lab in the pediatrician’s office, while I silently prayed over and over that the flu test would not come back positive. It was positive. And he crumpled in my arms.  My son had had enough and I did not blame him. I did not blame him as a 10 year old child or as a grown woman. I had had enough too.

For a month or so, all my child was looking forward to was a birthday party for one of his friends. This small handful of kids was to meet at someone’s house for pizza and follow it up with a night of ice skating. Thanks to the flu, he could not go, and I might have been more crushed than he. His face turned red. Tears streamed down his cheeks. He cried so hard he did not make a sound.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I will remake this whole party for you when you are better. I promise I will do the exact same thing. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise. I’m so sorry.”

Last night, and after a terrible week or two for my family in general, this birthday party do-over finally happened. As I watched these kids at the pizza parlor laughing, I took a Polaroid with my mind. My breath caught, my heart sang, and I cried tears of joy. My son was happy.

For all the times I beat myself up, wondering if I am a good mother, wondering if I am doing enough, wondering if I yell at my kids too often or too loud or for something seemingly trivial yet created by years worth of frustration over the same little thing they keep doing, last night I gave myself a break. I did ok. I gave both of us a “moment.” And I felt, whatever happens, we will be alright.

The kids ice skated, took pictures, enjoyed churros, and ended the night laughing in the car the whole way home. After we dropped everyone off and got inside the house, my son hugged me.

“Thank you, Mom! I had the best time.”

No. Thank YOU.