The remains of childhood.

Without a doubt this year has been one of the ones where I have enjoyed the small conversations with my kids the most.

I can no longer call them children sometimes; other, yes…I yell at them when they are acting like TODDLERS and call them so!  But most of time, I quite enjoy these exchanges of ideas, opinions or simple points of view.

Sometimes even a short sentence will teach me a lesson; listening to them is key, especially in this era where we are enslaved by our cell phones. More than once they have complained because they are not getting my undivided attention, but shared attention between them and my phone screen, so I will put it away and face them, and listen.  I have heavily criticized people that have their faces on their screens the whole day. It annoys me and I find it disrespectful, and yet sometimes I find myself distracted by my own electronic devices as well.

And speaking of distractions, I have found that defining and respecting the line between work hours, lunch break, family time is sometimes challenging: it blurs when I have a heavy load of work and I want to do it all at the same time. I get anxious and sometimes selfish about my own needs. About a month ago I was leaving town to meet someone at the airport 80 miles away. I was running a bit late and as soon as I got on the Interstate, I saw a mile of cars completely stopped because of an accident ahead of us. I was fuming, and said “Great! All I needed was an accident blocking my way!”  My daughter looked at me in surprise –disapprovingly- and said, “Mom, don’t be selfish, think about the people in the accident that could be hurt.”

One more lesson learned from her. 🙂

When I was her age (10) I was a very oblivious child, very forgetful and easily distracted. And my daughter reminds me of those days very often. A few nights ago we were watching the Billboard Music Awards. They invited Celine Dion to sing My Heart will go on, in remembrance of the disaster of the Titanic or something of the sort.  While she sang, they showed scenes from the movie Titanic , and my daughter asked “Mom, was that movie shot on the actual ship?”  The question first annoyed me, then almost made me laugh, but I kept a straight face remembering myself as a child, and explained that the Titanic sunk over 100 years ago.

Next, the invited guest was Cher. Neither of my kids had any idea who she was –of course-.  As she performed with her extravagant clothes and hairstyles, my daughter asked if that was Cher Lloyd. I said “Cher who?”  She said “Cher Lloyd mom! The pop star that sings I Want you Back”.   I said “No, this is just Cher, not Lloyd, just Cher. A bit frustrated because I couldn’t hear or watch the show of this amazing performer (at 71 looks amazing still).  So my daughter looked at me straight and asked “no one knows her last name?”

Well, I had to laugh hard then. Her naiveté drives me crazy, in a good way. It shows the remains of what is left in her of my “little girl”.  I love her many questions that just prove how she is still my baby and how curious she can be.

This past week, while we were cooking something one night she said “Mom, what is the purpose of life?”.

A recent movie came out with the name A Dog’s Purpose, so just for a second I thought she was referring to a movie or a book. So I clarified her question, and she said “The purpose of life Mom, what are we here for? What is this?”

I stopped what I was prepping in the kitchen and thought hard for an answer I was not prepared to give while standing with a mixing bowl!

A simple question that called for a simple answer for a 10 year old.

We are here to be decent humans? We are here to create families and extend our values?  We are here to help the needy?  If only she knew and understood how pathetic I think the work-eat sleep-play cycle can be at times, how we live in a society where we are always competing and wanting more to reach a state of happiness that sometimes seems to never come until we “land” and realize what a are some of the fortunate few in this world that have a good life.

The last thing I wanted, was to discourage my little girl about any possible preconceived ideas about life; good ideas.

So my answer was, “We are here to be happy, with what we have”. I then returned the question to her and she replied “I think we are here to learn and help, and be happy”. Good. We were both pleased with our answers.

Oftentimes children (not only mine) surprise me with their questions, their statements, their drawings, their dreams, because it shows how frequently we –adults- underestimate how bright and deep their thoughts can be.

I feel like I am holding on as tight as I can to these last years of innocence, like a dog that will settle for crumbs, I will (almost) beg for conversations with my children, nighttime chats, a walk in the afternoon just to talk to them with no screens present. And I try to remember the things they say to me, or write about them here, in my blog.

I just enrolled my son, now 12- the acceptable age at the gym- to 24 Hour Fitness, where I go to work out several times a week. He seems too self-conscious about his skinny build, and he is constantly asking how he can get “muscly”. He is 5’6”, so at least the height is not a problem for him. So I thought it was a great chance to spend more time with him and help him get “muscly” at the same time.

So it has been fun, walking on the treadmill next to him, or the elliptical or the bikes.  We do cardio for a good 30 minutes, then we do weights. It has been just about a month or 2 and he is already asking his Dad if his biceps look bigger; patience and discipline I tell him, but 2 days later he will ask again.

Last week he said to me “Mom, I have a question about reproduction”. It was a casual afternoon while I was putting groceries away, not at the gym, not at night, just out of the blue. I switched from cook mode to Sex Education mode in seconds. “Yes?” I replied, expecting a very complex question or embarrassing moment.  “How long does the limo have to park in the garage?”

Well, I am glad he explicitly said it was a reproduction question, or it would have taken me a while to figure out what he was talking about. After all I was just putting canned tomatoes away!

Well, these questions are the beginning of the end of the stage I have adored as a mother. These questions are still a mixed bag, in the case of my son anyway.  Where the “bag” is leaning towards religion, politics and sex and less about simple things of life and the endless why this and why that.

Like I said before, I am not looking forward to the teen years and all the difficulties that come with the age, I am not ready but who is? All I can do it keep the bond between us nice and tight, the trust, the emotional freedom, so that when the road starts getting bumpy for them (and me I guess) I can be one of the first persons they will turn to for help or guidance. Me or their Dad of course.

I have a whole Blog entry to write about our recent trip to Cancun and today is Father’s Day so I have one more thing to write before I end this one..

For the first time ever, I have no father to call to say Happy Day. So I am going to write here all that I am feeling today, for him.

Thank you Dad for your laughter, for your smiles, for your silly dances. Thank you Dad for sacrificing so much of your own time and money to provide us with the best of the best, even when we didn’t deserve it.

Thank you Dad for never leaving, thank you Dad for all those Sunday mornings of long breakfasts at our table.  Thank you Dad for years of weekly manila envelopes with an allowance.  Thank you for teaching me how to use a credit card responsibly.

Thank you for teaching me to always wear clean shoes, and return loaned cars with a full gas tank; to pick up the check every now and then. To be a great host at parties.  Thank you for teaching me to be humble and to be charitable. For teaching me to pray and talk to God.  Thank you for being so strict about rules, discipline and school grades, but most of all, for instilling in me and my siblings such respect and admiration for my mother.

Wherever you are Daddy, Happy Father’s Day. I will always, always love you.


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