Shifting Seats with my Tween

I am not sure whether my ten year-old is an aberration from the species of tweenus humanas but she has become a creature that is largely incomprehensible.

Something Changed this past year and by that I mean Everything Changed.

Although the years prior had been rife with giggles and craftmaking, curiosity and general chumminess, the Tween who now lives with me is an unpredictable force of nature.

The field research, as I understand it, runs long on this species.

The Tween, it appears, is not a creature that evolves in a way that is linear or even progressive. The Tween can be inexplicably mercurial in temperament. Sometimes she is fully independent and categorically dismisses the wearing of pink or frills, and other times she is not sure why I would deduce she’s too old for “My Little Ponies” and really-- why would I think that? Tween does not often offer clues as to how her needs can be met. For example, when I say The Wrong Thing on Monday, I am not confronted about The Wrong Thing until several Mondays henceforth at which point I have blithely been thinking everything had been forgiven, all the while a large fortress had been under construction around The Threat of the Wrong Thing Being Said Again, and the fortress is now fully armed with emotional explosives that can detonate at any time.

Dear God, it’s me, Kendra. Can you hear me? Because I need you to translate some things down here on the earth plain.

In fact, Tween terrain has felt to me like utter displacement. Much like waking up one day and learning that the house you had been living in for the last ten years had been transported right in the middle of a busy intersection. The rooms and furniture in your house were still all the same, everything inside was just as you had left it, but now you would have to get used to horns blaring and sirens wailing just outside your window, and the fun daily escapade of playing frogger just to get to your front door. The vessel is the same. But the traffic pattern and the sights and sounds have changed radically. You can’t go back to your old address. You can’t move to a new house. You have to learn to live within the familiar confines in unfamiliar territory.

Instead of leaning in to my own feelings of displacement, though, I have found a more helpful posture to be that of shape shifting. I cannot expect the evolving vessel that is my Tween to explain to me what is happening with her since, hello? She is going through it. But I can try to understand what it must be like to have your feelings and hormones and body and mind all learning a new tango at once.

Recently I put Tween in charge of decorations at our church VBS. Friends, I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for the staggering creativity and ingenuity she infused into everything. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I unintentionally stepped on when I rearranged the fluffing of plastic bags on the waterfall. But swtiching roles, making her the boss of me in a sense was just the Freaky Friday role-reversal I needed to help me see this complex world through Tween’s eyes. It’s a prescription --and a privilege--I hope not to ever lose.

Laundry, Lorelai Gilmore and how motherhood is not a monolith

Where did it begin? Where is the point of origin? When did I first begin to believe the myth that motherhood is a monolith, a mere one-dimensional portrayal of sacrificial chores? It's a problem that we've been unpacking for time immemorial, and Mother's Day is a reminder of both the traction we've gained in understanding the complexity of motherhood and how little ground we've made in dismantling the mythology of it. It's ironic that the living, laboring example in my home wasn't the narrative I accepted, but as we know, detergent commercials and greeting cards are powerful to reinforce the myth of motherhood.

It took becoming a mother myself for me to begin to understand that I will never fully understand: the mystery of bearing another mystery. I have been changed by begetting a whole person, who will change in form and finesse, who will change me, who will change the world. 

My mom, to whom I was born almost four decades ago, can clear the entire board in Jeopardy! just as handily as she can deep clean a bathroom. She is whip-smart and bewilderingly competent at a great many things. But I, too, thought Mother's Day was to be a celebration of her dutifulness, of her servitude, and that by Giving Her the Day Off from Chores we were more than gifting her everything she could ever want.


I believe if we listened more to the mothers who have experienced abject loss, the loss of babies, the loss of jobs, the loss of jobs because of babies, the loss of babies because of jobs, the loss of grown children to a world who could not love them well enough, the loss of grown children, the loss of love, the loss of enough, we might come closer to understanding the myriad layers of grief and hope and resilience that motherhood embodies.

Remember this Mother's Day that a greeting card holiday does well to celebrate that which is happening on the outside: the bouquets and brunches; the gifts and the glory of fingerpainted art. But we will do well to celebrate the universes a mother contains on the inside.

I didn't know when I became a mother the 18-hole golf course that would become my heart what with its expanses of lush greens and patches of forbidding sandtraps, the deep dark lakes where all the errant tees and balls are abandoned and forgotten, and all the daily scrapes and whacks my heart would take, not to mention the loss of whole segments of myself that I thought had disappeared but which I found walking around in a warm, huggable body asking me what's for dinner.

I could never have imagined what my mother contained on the inside but now I know that is where her real work was done, the work from which she will never be given a day off. Her hopes for me and the ways I would use my gifts and avoid life's sandtraps, her belief in what I could be, the desires she held for my life that went unstated, unbidden, I can only now begin to fathom. The monolith of motherhood wants us to believe that our mothers' sacrifices are relegated to laundry. But what of the dreams they surrender, what of the soaring hopes they've had to lay down?

As Lorelai Gilmore so aptly stated, while hefting a box from Emily Gilmore, "It's heavy. It must be full of her hopes and dreams for me." I know now that is a box I will never be able to lift since they don't fit in a box at all. They are contained in our mothers. I am a grateful vessel among them.

Happy Mother's Day. If you have a mum, hug her hard.

That time my son rediscovered crafts

So far in his relationship with crafts, Sonshine has regarded them with a range of emotions. On one end of the Posture Toward Doing Crafts spectrum was a feeling of Ambivalence as demonstrated by a screwing up of the side of his mouth and a shrug, "Like, do you think we can actually go eat a Nutty Bar instead of doing this craft?" On the other end of the spectrum is something I would characterize as Existential Angst, like, "What is a craft and why does it benefit me, you, the community-at-large, if I glue this googley-eye to this popsicle stick and then wait for it to dry, subsequently discarding it as waste in the days to come?" This range has been replaced with one that includes a much warmer zone, a climate where temperatures might even reach Craft Ecstasy?

I know. It's been a confusing time for me, too.

It started when Sonshine started begging nagging harassing  asking me for a white T-shirt. He didn't specify a reason. A small ask by any measure, and although I am sure he wasn't envisioning the woman's JJill white XL T-shirt when he requisitioned the plain white T, he seemed pleased as punch when we scored it for a whole two moneys at Boomerangs thrift store over spring break. Achievement level unlocked!

When we got home and he started asking me for the paints, however, this is when I started to take his temperature, and just asked casually if I could see his dental records. WHO THIS.

The boy set about to decorate the official t-shirt of the Vera Bradley luggage-toting mom with some verbiage that is not completely familiar to me. It would appear, given the primitive YouTube graphic rendering on the back, that the T-shirt is basically an homage to all of the YouTube stars du jour who know Things about Minecraft. I mean, I get it. I wore a Paula Abdul "Forever Your Girl" tour shirt for a minute. I know what it is to wear your fandom on your literal sleeve.

In the meantime, the boychild also produced a puppet that, I would assume was pulled from the Upside Down, but is, once again, some kind of homage to a YouTuber du jour.

I don't know what your alarm clock sounded like yesterday, but I'd be interested to know if you've ever been roused from sleep with: MOM CAN YOU PUT THIS ON TWITTER LIKE RIGHT NOW I NEED TO SHOW THIS TO PIXELDIP AND SEE IF HE WILL GIVE ME A SHOUTOUT MOM MOM MOM TWITTERRRRR.

So I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious.

Back to the t-shirt, though. Upon completion of this t-shirt craft involving puff paint (like this was the year 19 freaking 91), Sonshine launched his campaign to get said apparel washed, dried, and wearable so that at 600 hours this morning, he was all-systems go.

"I just hope the kids at school aren't distracted."

Yeah, I mean. I don't see why they would look twice at a kid who appears to have shoplifted from JJill and then gotten dressed in the ballpit at McDonald's Playland.

craft tshirt

Craft on, players.