You know how when you take swimming lessons or skating or something and they group you according to ability? Some days I think parents rate themselves and each other this way. People with babies are novices, then come beginners, and we with young grade school aged children...advanced beginners. It's not until you get to puberty that a parent can call oneself an Intermediate. Once you get them past 18 you can graduate to Advanced.
CeCe got in trouble at school for talking too much last week, and when Elliot got home we took her up to our bedroom to sit her down privately and give her a talking to. So we discussed the importance of listening and following directions, and she nodded dutifully and assured us it wouldn't happen again. We ended the discussion by releasing her from our clenches to return to playing with her sisters. When she left the room Elliot and I looked at each other with disbelief, "I can't believe we're the parents." I said. Funny he was thinking the same thing. We just got started with this, we're beginners, well, maybe I guess advanced beginners, but still.
But the days are fast approaching when we have to think hard about these discussions. A friend pointed out this week that I am nearly halfway through the time period during which Sumner and Marshall will live at home. And while I have always thought dreamily about the days when all 3 will go to college, I am overcome with disbelief that we are already to this point. As I am trying hard to still keep them young, a lofty ambition in the year 2011, I don't want to have my head in the sand about the stage we are in.
But the signs are everywhere. The twins are creeping into this gray area where they are still little girls who talk to their stuffed animals and like to color, but at the same time, I catch glimpses of tweendom: an eye roll, no kiss on the way into school, extra time putting outfits together and working on hair, music blasting and door slamming. They're upon us, those fateful years when our parents will be chuckling as Elliot and I get ours after what we put them through during our teen years.
So along with all of this growth comes what every parent dreads: the talk. Even more painful than outing ourselves as Santa or the Easter Bunny. My girls basically know everything that's going to happen (because I'm a terrible liar) EXCEPT, as my friend Cindy would say, "Putting the thing in the thing." I just can't have that conversation yet. So being the informed advanced beginner mother that I am, I have begun to poll everyone I know about when to have, "THE TALK." The answers I have gotten have run the gamut of "I'm not telling them until they ask," to "I told my kids but they didn't believe me," to "Mine know everything and I have a vagina puppet I used to tell them." Ok, this last answer truly confirmed that we're not ready for this. I couldn't keep it together at the "V" word, much less a puppet shaped like one.
So when we venture out on one of our favorite post breakfast weekend spots, Barnes and Noble, I am generally pretty wary of the sex education section. But the girls and I love to browse and could kill an entire morning there, each in a separate aisle. A couple of weeks ago we were there and I was watching a friend's one year old for the day and lost track of one of the twins. When I found her, she was comfortably settled into the "Facts of life" section thumbing through one of the books. Usually the calm parent with an answer for everything, I tensed up, then took a deep breath. When she asked me if we could buy the book, I thought I was doing her a favor and preserving her precious childhood by telling her I thought we should wait a little before getting into all of that. She shrugged her shoulders and said OK before trotting off to look for some Harry Potter stuff.
Well, my regret set in almost immediately. I missed a great opportunity because of MY hang ups, not hers. When I relayed the whole episode to my sister, she scolded me saying, "You're holed up in your room on the phone with me, and she's probably downstairs getting her period." Easy for her to say, she has only boys, she'll never have to deal with some of these details. She'll tell her son anything and he'll just go right back to playing with his Star Wars paraphernalia.
While generally SO honest with whatever question the girls throw my way, I have trouble reconciling why the whole sex thing is giving me a nervous breakdown. It's not explaining the actual ACT, but the questions that I know will result about MY experience, and I just don't think I can lie about some of the details. So I struggle between being an advanced beginner, and getting in touch with my former self. How much of ourselves do we reveal to our kids? Sometimes as parents we paint ourselves the picture of perfection, when in reality our kids might benefit from learning about some of our flaws.
Tonight I got in the car, after being the responsible adult/wife/mother, making dinner, getting homework done, and was just scooting up to Rite Aid to pick up a prescription (as any conscientious grown-up will do). I sat down, started the car, and Elliot was obviously blasting the radio in attempt to unwind on his way home from work. The song that was on immediately took me back to the mid 90's;Pearl Jam at its best, and almost instantly conjured up the feelings that related to that time period in my life. I cruised around the neighborhood, not thinking about anything but the lyrics, and felt for just a brief moment that I was that young person again.
Isn't it amazing how a song or smell can take you back so quickly in a way that an actual memory cannot? I thought of graduation parties, the uncertainty of ending college and where my life was going to head, all with that one song. The smell Purell hand sanitizer takes me immediately back to the Intensive care nursery where Sumner and Marshall spent their first days. I guess this is why food is so important with family traditions, because your senses are so much more keen than your actual memories.
So when I get small glimpses or minutes of being my former self, I wonder about what I will tell my kids when they ask me about my younger days. "Anything about experimenting with sex or drugs....lie." said Elliot emphatically when I posed this question to him. "But I'm the worst liar in the world, they'll know." I answered. A couple of weeks ago, we got into a discussion about smoking, Marshall and Sumner (with a friend in the car) asked me if I ever smoked. "Yes, before I had you guys." I said truthfully. Well, honesty NOT appreciated, the reaction I got from them was totally unexpected. It was as if I told them they were adopted or something. "WHAT, YOU DID THAT??" one of them yelled from the far back seat of the car. I thought I was going to get points for full disclosure, when I actually was persecuted by my 8 year olds for revealing my less than perfect former self. Go figure. I'm still figuring out how to handle the heavy stuff.
So I will continue to teeter back and forth between responsible mother and real person who is flawed and the consummate lady, making advanced beginner decisions and having close to intermediate talks with th