More memories

Ever since college, when I was introduced to the theory of birth order in relation to behavior and family dynamics, I have been intrigued with the concept.  In families of three, like mine when I grew up, the oldest is typically the responsible one, the second child is the trouble maker, and the third is the bookworm.  This seemed to be true for my family.  I was the oldest, with two younger brothers and I am sure everyone had the perception, as I did, that the birth order theory rang true for our particular family. 

When I was twelve years old, my family moved from our home of nine years in New Zealand and lived at my father’s parents house back in the U.S. until our family could get established enough to get our own house.  So, we lived in my grandparents’ cosy attached rec. room, while my grandmother, grandfather and uncle who is only five years older than me, lived in the main part of the house.

Life went on for us kids as we adapted to our new life.  My brothers, as usual, would always play together, finding something to build with or get in trouble with outside, while I would find some sort of solitary activity to do inside.  Never anything remotely against the rules, for I was the oldest, therefore the responsible one.

I took my responsibility very seriously, especially on the day that I noticed that my youngest brother who is eight years younger than me was in grave danger, well, that’s what I thought.  My brothers, who were always thinking about how to substitute things when we didn’t have the money for the real thing, had created water balloons by putting water in sandwich baggies.  That wasn’t the danger though.  The problem was when my other brother, the middle child, the one who seemed to get into trouble the most, was chasing the baby brother around with a small piece of wood with a sharp, rusty nail in it.  I think the intention was to pop the make-shift water balloon that was in our little brother’s hands before he got the chance to throw it. 

When I caught a glimpse of what was going on, I became enraged.  I was sure that my little brother was going to get sliced up or even stabbed with that rusty nail, and possibly catch an instantaneous raging case of a tetanus infection.  I marched my responsible self outside, found an extra, partially filled bag of water and with a mother-hen like impulse, intending to protect the little guy, threw it towards the middle brother, with some added words of wisdom, I am sure. 

Now, I am not a good aim, nor have I ever been one.  That bag of water flung through the air, completely missed both brothers and then continued on in a direction that I had not planned on, only to smash through my grandparents’ house window!  Apparently, that’s how you can get the rambunctious brothers to stop messing around with rusty nails, because we all stopped in our tracks instantly.  I bet my brothers were about to faint because their sister, the one who took her role to heart, and almost never got into trouble, did the unthinkable and ultimate no-no and BROKE A WINDOW!

What came next, was even more surprising  for me and my brothers.  Almost instantly, my uncle rushed outside yelling, “DAVID!!!” (perhaps the obvious first impression)… Nooo.  “BEN!??”… Nooo.  “Laura???”.  To my brothers dismay, instead of reading a riot act right then and there, he quietly turned around and went back inside, I am sure stunned as all heck.  Everyone must have been stunned because I don’t remember being reprimanded at all, which I am sure bothered my brothers beyond belief, that I, their not-as-perfect-as-everyone-thinks, sister got away scott free with breaking a window, a window that wasn’t even ours!

To this day, my brothers are amazed with how I got away with it, and with how people’s reactions were not what they were expecting.  They still scoff at the situation, disappointed that people viewed them as the obvious ones to make that mistake.  We all know that if it was either one of them who had broken the window, someone would have been in big, big trouble.

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Parenting bumps

I know that I’m not perfect, nobody is, but I aim to put forth my best effort to be as good a parent as I possibly can.  When I was a kid, I would hang onto the theory that nobody is perfect, and that to get as close to perfect as you can, you have to mess up somehow.  To me, in my crazy brain, it’s like a catch-22.  So, that means somewhere in the life plan of all good parents, nearly perfect parents, there is a requirement or pre-requisite to mess up somehow. 

I met one of those pre-requisites just yesterday.  As summer vacation activities such as swim lessons and summer school started to wind down, I found myself with less running around dropping this kid off, picking up that one to just turn around and drop her off at the next activity.  I felt just a little bit of freedom from the jumble of times and activities I had to remember in my exhausted mind.  I was relieved of some activities, but I had to get through just one more day of swim lessons.

I dropped of my sensitive little one, the middle child, at the local pool for her last swim class.  She was the last activity for the day.  I could now relax, for all the other activities that would normally go on, were finished, well at least for the week.  I went on home and immediately found myself knee-deep in daily projects, plugging along while listening to the TV, totally immersed with millions of things bouncing around in my head.  Then, with a bit of panic, I thought of my kiddo in swim lessons… Oh my gosh!  I got so immersed that I lost track of time!  I looked at the clock, and only half an hour went by.  Her class was 45 minutes long.  I had a few minutes left at home before I had to leave and pick her up.  There was no reason to panic.

I went on, bustling around, then finding something to keep me busy.  I stood at the sink washing away some recycles, making sure they were good and clean enough for them to pass inspection and get reused.  I don’t know how the thought popped into my head, but after a few minutes of listening to the news that had come on, I realized my schedule wasn’t quite right.  Usually I wasn’t listening to the news…. OH CRAP!

I remember the confused looks on the faces of the my two other kiddos as I ran through the house yelling “oh crap, oh crap!” I grabbed my keys and wallet and ran out the door, rushing by my busy husband who was pulling weeds on his day off,  seemingly not noticing my frantic rush.  I threw my vehicle into reverse and imagined my exit from our driveway as what you see on TV when the bad guys drive away from a bank robbery, except I wasn’t in a cool car like on TV, it’s a mini-van, but hey, it still works. 

Why is it that it seems when you are in a rush that there is always something, some obstacle that is sure to slow you down?  I got to the second intersection of our small town, and sure enough there was a vehicle… just one that needed to pass by.  Was the vehicle going fast today, like they all do?  HECK NO!  I contemplated squeezing in front of the vehicle, cutting them off.  Heck, my kid was probably freaked out by now because of my delinquency, I was sure I was justified to cause just a small heart attack to the poor unknowing seniors driving in their very slow truck.  I took a deep breath and listened to my conscience and waited, which seemed to be FOREVER.

Finally, I got on the road and up ahead I could see the intersection that I needed to turn at.  Sitting there was a semi with its turn signal on, seemingly stuck and unable to move.  I went through my mind very quickly with all the alternate routes I could take to avoid this mini traffic jam.  I don’t know what made me stay on the road, but I did.  The semi turned very, very slowly and I followed.

I’m glad that I kept on my normal route because I saw my kiddo walking towards home, clutching her pink swim towel with a forced brave look to her demeanor.  She didn’t see me coming since I was nearly attached to the super slow semi’s rear bumper, but she did see me as I passed by her, making a quick turn at the nearest street.  As she crawled into  the vehicle the tears started to flow.  I could see that she was trying her very best to keep them in, but there was no controlling them, they just burst out.

I got the whole speech about “where were you”, and “I thought you were hurt”, and “I didn’t know what to do because I thought I would get in trouble if I walked home on my own”.  We just had the conversation earlier that morning about her being able to walk around town by herself.  Even though the town we live in is a good one for kids to roam free, I wasn’t ready for her to have that kind of freedom yet. 

The chew-out lasted the whole drive home and clear until we were home for a good 15 minutes.  She tried to get me to promise not to do it again, but I couldn’t do it.  You see, I’m not perfect.  I promised her I wouldn’t do it on purpose, just like this time wasn’t on purpose.  But I couldn’t promise her that I won’t ever make a mistake again.  It just doesn’t work that way.

The guilt didn’t stop there though.  Enter little brother.  For some reason, since I started to leave him at preschool, he has doubts about me coming back for him.  He loves his preschool, but has a great fear that I will never return, which has never happened.  So everyday, even in the summer when there is no preschool, he asks, “you always come back for us?”.  I always assure him that I will come back, secretly hoping I won’t mess up, ever, and knowing full well that there is a chance that I will mess up at some point.  As I was getting my chew-out, her little brother, sharp as a whip, who has a habit of secretly paying attention when you are sure he is not, pipes in, “you always come back for us?”  OH CRAP!

Now, I had lowered myself to not only a child abandoner, but to a liar too.  What next?  What’s next is the next bump, with a whole lot of fun and love and great experiences in between.  I realize that I just experienced a parenting bump that all good parents need to go through once in a while.  I have met one of my many parental mess-up pre-requisites.  Everyone was a bit frazzled, but safe, and maybe a bit smarter and we are going on.