Monday, March 03, 2008


Recently I read a post by Waking Up in Portland that resonated deeply. Being hurled into the full-time work force, she reflected on her previous view of her time with her children, “I gave myself permission to miss moments because I knew that another one would be coming along right behind it and I could just grab that one.”

It has become very clear to me lately that these “moments” become fewer and farther between as our children get older. When my boys were little, I worked nights, giving me the freedom to grab so many of these moments; the scheduled and the spontaneous. The choices were mine to “get things done” or to leave them “undone” while taking the afternoon to pick apples or look for colored leaves. I made time for Chucky Cheese and play groups with moms that I enjoyed being with. I scheduled special dates for concerts or to slip away to the ceramic studio that offers pre-made pieces for painting and firing. I do not remember the obligations that were left undone in those days or whether or not I got the cleaning and chores done, but I do remember those moments and so do my boys.

I am in a very different place as a mother now. Each and every day is overloaded and bursting at the seams with obligations. My career is based on accepting the work as it comes and adhering to daunting deadlines. My teenagers, more independent than their previous little boy selves, require more supervision than ever. The mother who reveled in “moments” seems almost unavailable to her nine-year-old daughter, who has never set foot in Chucky Cheese or the ceramic studio.

“Let’s you and me go to that ceramic place this week.” I tell Cadence on the drive to school, “And how about we go to Chucky Cheese this weekend?” I ask. She squeals with delight and bounces out of the car, racing to the double doors, eager to share the news with friends. I feel relief, knowing that I still have time to create these moments with her. As for the boys, our time for creating moments is running short and opportunities are limited; I mentally commit to seeking them out.

“But people don’t have blue hair, Tyler. Not unless you count the old ladies.” I look at the determination on his face and know that I am headed for an argument.

“I’m not people, Mom. I’m an individual.” He states, strumming the guitar which is almost a part of his body. “I’m expressing my creativity. Besides, you always said you didn’t care about how we wore our hair. What about that?” He asks, calling me on my own proclamation.

I think about the art high school where he spends the second half of each day. I remember thinking at open house that my son was the only one with hair-colored hair and no facial piercing. These creative youth, in their attempts at self expression, stand out in the world, but become almost conforming within these walls.

“What about the prom?’ I ask, knowing it is only months away.

“You think I care if I have blue hair at the prom? I want blue hair at the prom. Besides, I only want the bangs blue.” He says, holding a chunk of long blonde hair out for examination.

“You will look back in the year book and say, what the heck was I thinking?” I tell him, hoping to hit a hot button somewhere.

“You’re supposed to look back at high school and say that, Mom! That’s the whole point!” He says, strangely beginning to make sense.

“Ask your father.” I tell him, knowing that when all logic fails, the shoe drops there. Of course I am spot on with this tactic. Dad’s paying and says his obligation stops at the haircut. He will not finance blue hair.

And then I saw it.

This was a moment.

There aren’t very many left.

I agree, under very strict terms, to help him express his individuality.

First: it must be of the temporary, wash-out variety.

Second: he is sworn to secrecy; he must not tell anyone that I helped him, lest they thing I approve of blue hair.

Third: it cannot cost more than ten dollars.

Six dollars and ninety-nine cents later, we sit at the kitchen island with the shocking blue box. “You know you will look like a cartoon character when we finish.” I tell him, brushing the bleach on the spiky ends on the back of his head and painting his long blonde bangs.

“Aren’t you going to read the directions?” He asks, tapping his fingers on the counter.

“Nah.” I tell him. “Bleach and I are old friends.”

“How long does it need to stay on?” He interrogates, not confident in my abilities.

“Till it’s done.” I tell him. “Not to worry.” Worry spreads across his face, bleaching it faster than the goop on his hair.

We rinse the bleach after a brief lightening and I marvel at the incredible highlights. “Please just leave it like this.” I urge, “It looks amazing;!” He agrees, but is committed in his mind to shocking blue. I realize glancing at the clock that I might have to leave before it is finished, but his impulsivity is raging and he insists we forge ahead.

“You are going to look like a Smurf.” I tell him, surprised at how blue this stuff really is. The tips of the spikes go on quickly with a brush and I disregard the direction that encourages covering skin with Vaseline to prevent staining, as we are going nowhere near his skin. Things get a little messy, however once his long bangs are coated with blue dye, as they fall repeatedly against his forehead.

“It’s on my skin!” He yells, full of panic like the wicked witch about to melt. I tell him to relax, as I try clipping them to the top of his head.

“Okaaay….” I say in my most calm voice, “There is some on your face, but we’ll take care of that.” I say as I wash my hands to get the blue off. The blue does not come off. I grab a towel and scrub my fingers to no avail. “Oh boy.” I say.

“Oh BOY??” He yells, in full blown panic. “Tell me it’s not really on my face!”

I bite my lip, both amused and horrified at the vertical blue stripes that run down his forehead and onto his nose.

“I’ll get some bleach.” I tell him.

“BLEACH?” He screams, running to the bathroom. “OH MY GOD!” I hear, collecting myself and hoping that he really does enjoy being an individual.

“Try some face cream.” I yell from the kitchen.

“FACE CREAM? What’s FACE CREAM?” I hear him thrashing around in the bathroom closet. “Is it called, SORRY... I PAINTED YOUR FACE BLUE AND IT WON’T COME OFF Cream? I don’t see any of THAT!”

Slowly and careful, I bleach his face clean and tell him I need to go pick up his sister. “ARE you kidding me? You’re leaving me NOW?”

I smiled, realizing that I had, in fact, created a moment.

Remember Chucky Cheese?

Remember the Raffi Concert?

Remember painting ceramics?

Remember when I painted your face blue by accident?


Jenny said...

I thought I was wild and crazy when I painted my toenails green.

The blue hair actually looks kinda neat. And the way his bangs hang, you can't even tell blue is on his face :-)

Jerri said...

Raffi? You guys went to Raffi, too? Those were the days....

Good for you for helping him. The blue will fade...from his face and his hair...but he'll never forget that you helped him.

And yes, someday, he will tell this story with great love. Even this. Yes, this.

You children are so very blessed.

Suzy said...

Tell Tyler he looks cool.....



shauna said...

You go, Mom! What a great way to have a defining moment with your son. He'll always remember that(and by the way, it looks fabulous, as far blue hair goes--he'll be stylin' at the prom).

And thanks for this line:
"I do not remember the obligations that were left undone in those days or whether or not I got the cleaning and chores done, but I do remember those moments and so do my boys." It's just what I needed to hear today.

kario said...

What a riot! Thank you so much for the laugh today. I hope you and your daughter make it to the ceramic studio and Chucky Cheese (my idea of hell).

Not only are these the moments you remember, they are the ones they will remember when they are with their own children. What a legacy you are leaving!

Molly said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane! My boys didn't dye their hair blue, but we endured every outlandish hairstyle under the sun!
And your boy is right---you're supposed to think that when your thirty five with a mortgage and a couple of kids and you look back at high school pics!
Thanks for the reminder about St. Anthony! I used to plague him.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Take an A, Mom! BTW, I think Cadence is doing just fine. Nothing to feel guilty about with that one.

Terry Whitaker said...

I just read this entire thing to Leo--I have a feeling he'll be headed in the blue haired direction shortly so I wanted him to know what to look out for!! He reminded me of the time I cut his bangs and made him look like a freak (he was four)

Great story!