Hey, kids! It’s that time of year again. Time to carve up squashes and gourds so the squirrels, rats, and pigeons can eat them before you’re able to use them as luminaria. Time to invest in bags of high fructose corn syrup-laden treats to pass out to the costumed neighborhood kids who ring your doorbell. Most importantly, time to sing yours truly a rousing and heartfelt “Happy Birthday to You”!!!
As those of us with October birthdays well know, this month belongs to ghosts and ghouls, not to us. Every year it’s birthday greetings with pumpkins and scarecrows, birthday cakes decorated with candy corn, and plush jack-o-lantern-themed birthday gifts. I hated it as a kid, but now I think it’s awesome in a kitschy kind of way. I mean, really—what better way to celebrate the day of your birth than with skeletons, vampires, demons and other symbols of death? Sweet!
So, yes, my birthday is nigh on 6 days away and for the first time in years I’m actually looking forward to it. Why? Because my husband and I are getting the f*@# outta Dodge! Woo hoo! My mom is coming in from out of state to watch the kids (and also get some quality grandma time with them) so that the hubby and I can have a weekend to ourselves. I can’t wait! It’s a chance for me to take off the 500-pound mantle of parental responsibility that I schlep around on a daily basis and don the carefree ingénue face that’s left over from the halcyon days of my youth. Okay, okay. So I’m too old to be an ingénue, not to mention infinitely over-experienced, but it’s a nice fantasy in which I like to indulge from time to time. Seriously, though, the difference between life with kids and life with kids at Grandma’s is akin to living a Jekyll and Hyde existence.
At home, I’m an ber-responsible mom of twins who dutifully reads and rereads toddler books to her kids, helps build forts out of folding chairs and comforters, composes new and exciting renditions of “Bingo”, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, and “Old MacDonald,”— not to mention watching endless hours of quality children’s programming. I try to engage in activities with the kids that are fun for all of us, too, like building huge Lego towers and then stomping them into oblivion, pretending to be Godzilla. (I’ve even gotten Winchie to scream “MOTHRA!!” a couple of times!) It’s fun for the kids and it’s a surprisingly effective way to relieve stress for me. Win-win!
I should add, in spite of the fun activities, that most days when I’m in mommy-mode I feel like I’m 438 years old. Yes, I expose my kids to underground music, vintage claymation, and outsider art, which a true 438-year-old probably wouldn’t, but the extra responsibility is what makes me feel older than Yoda. (I know…I know…Yoda was 872 or something, but you see what I’m getting at here). In my mind when I’m with the kids, I’m this bizarre chimera with Queen Elizabeth II’s hair, my grandmother’s wrinkled octogenarian face, the body of the Venus of Willendorf, and the feet of a Hindu sage who is still getting used to walking over hot coals: cumbersome, frumpy, and, for lack of a better term, ooooooooolllllllddddd. When I look in the mirror, it’s me, but with a crusty, curmudgeonly veneer, not unlike the ubiquitous latex masks for sale in every Walgreen’s this time of year.
When the kids go away, so does said veneer. In my husband’s words, I lose that “dead look” in my eyes and the sprightly, mischievous sparkle I had as a nullipara returns. I suddenly feel like I’m 25 again and that the world is mine for the taking. I’m not beaten down, resigned to my fate. No! I am the Lizard Queen! I can do anything! I can shatter the veneer of responsibility with sheer will and shine all the brighter for it. I’ve been known to dance in the streets and sing bawdy songs about the circus. Never having been incarcerated, I have no idea how it feels to be released after an extended stay in jail, but I’m guessing it’s something like this.
Does that mean I hate my kids? My role as a mother? My life? No. Of course not. My kids are kick ass and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I enjoy being a mom, if, for no other reason than to ensure that there will be artists, musicians, writers, and dreamers walking the planet for generations to come. I love having the time I do at home with my children. Watching them grow and learn has been the most joyfully edifying experience of my life. I have grown and matured right alongside them. Having had this experience, I would never return to life the way it was before they arrived.
But, tempus fugit and all that. It’s birthday time again and time for me to let my inner Hyde out to explore the world, if only for one short weekend. Like a kid, I’m hoping to get one of the two things on my b-day wish list: white 20-eye Doc Martens or a framed mirror decorated with pictures of vintage Mexican pin-up ladies, sequins, and glitter. (Fingers crossed!) But the best present of all will be from my mom: Time. Time to reclaim some of my pre-parenthood identity. Time to shed the veneer of responsibility for a while. Time to reconnect with my senses of humor, style, and self. Time for me. And, of course, time to eat my weight in peanut M&Ms and Almond Joys. Hooray for Halloween! Have a great one, y’all!