Saturday, February 27, 2010

Confessions of a (Sorta) Mean Girl

When I was in 5th grade, my best friend was a sweet little Indian girl who lived around the corner. We'll call her Sadie. Sadie sat behind me in school, and we were both on the quiet, bookish side. We rode bikes, played Barbies, ran through the sprinkler, and even tolerated her younger brother. When she spent the summer in India visiting her family, we exchanged letters and postcards the whole time. While our classmates were starting to "date" and go to dances, Sadie and I were perfectly content to just be ten. We even wore those silly "Best Friend" necklaces that fit together.

Until Catelyn moved in across the street.

Catelyn was "cool." She had older sisters who let us hang out in their room while they dyed their hair, listened to Metallica, and gossiped about boy drama. We snuck their V.C. Andrews novels, and were both horrified and fascinated by what we read. I slept over one night, and we stayed up to watch Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (which still gives me nightmares to this day.)

Eventually, Catelyn started making comments about Sadie. "She's so dorky." (Well, so was I--for an idea of my wardrobe at the time, see Dawn Wiener in "Welcome to the Dollhouse.) "Has she ever kissed a boy?" (Irrelevant, since neither of us had, nor were in any rush to.) "Her house always smells." (It smelled delicious to me, of curry and cumin and exotic spices that certainly never graced my own Irish kitchen at home.)

But at the tender age of 10--and too heavily influenced by books like "Sweet Valley High" which dictated some sort of expected adolescent pecking order--I started to buy into Catelyn's comments. When I planned the guest list for my 11th birthday party, I left Sadie off in order to placate Catelyn.

Sadie biked over to my house one afternoon in a panic. "Are you having a birthday party this year?" I quickly denied it. "I heard that you were, and you didn't invite me because you don't want to be friends anymore." She dissolved into tears, and I wrapped my arms around my sweet friend, begging her to come anyway. But we both knew it was beyond repair.

We wound up at the same high school together, several years later, but never progressed beyond a cordial "hey" in the hallways.

As time went on (I switched schools, Catelyn moved, and our friendship dissolved), I can't say my friendship skills progressed. When things got sticky (i.e. there was a disagreement, a difference of opinion/interest, a general annoyance), I simply extricated myself from the relationship and moved on. I became way too judgemental--instead of accepting my friends as they were, I professed exasperation (as I got older, I would write them off as being "too high maintenance.") I prided myself on what I thought was strength of character (I remember announcing to one poor girl, when I was about 14, that nobody liked her and thought she was annoying--thinking, somehow, that I was helping her!?! My old roommate loved this story and would always quote it at random, "NOBODY LIKES YOU!" But I can't say it was my finest hour.)

Looking back, I think I was terrified that someone would hurt me the way that I'd hurt Sadie. (Oh, and I had my comeuppance--in 7th grade, I was booted out of the "popular" crowd for a spell, and spent several lunch periods in the bathroom.) It was easier to turn away or brush someone off than work at the friendship.

WORK at the friendship. See, I didn't realize that it was just that--work. I thought that friends were just accessories to cement you into a certain social group, or cheerleaders to pick you up when you were down.

Now, at the ripe old age of 33 (and a teacher at a girls' school), I am extremely sensitive to this topic. I cringe when I hear of girls being cruel, rejecting each other, or grinding the gossip mill.

I've also reaped what I've sown. I have a few old friends that I keep in regular contact with (and through the magic of Facebook, I've reconnected with many people that I've truly missed), and I love meeting new people and developing new friendships. Yet I can't help thinking of all the times I failed as a friend throughout my adolescence, and the toll that has taken.

And then my thoughts turn to Sadie, and what would have happened if Catelyn had never disrupted our little world.

As my Teege gets older, and the birth of Baby #2 approaches, I ponder (and worry) how to teach them the value of true friendship--and the concerted effort required to make it work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

tick tick tick tick...

NR says when he looks at me these days, he sees the clock from "60 Minutes" ticking away. Thanks, honey. ;)

I was SURE I was going into labor last week. Sleepless nights, nausea, general misery. It was also my last week of work before maternity leave (which officially starts today!), and I was in pain by the end of each day (not just uncomfortable, in PAIN.) I am blessed to teach on a beautiful campus, but that beautiful campus was literally kicking my butt!

So while emotionally, it was very hard to say goodbye to my students (and a job which I really enjoy), physically I was MORE than ready. And I know it will be bittersweet when I return in September.

I remember returning to work after TJ was born. He was six months old, and attending a really wonderful daycare, so I had nothing to worry about. But there I was, standing in front of my new students, wearing an actual outfit (not my previous uniform of shorts, flip-flops, unkempt hair and a nursing tank top), waxing poetic about Tennessee Williams or somesuch...and feeling like something was missing.

Oh, right. My little sidekick wasn't there.

It hit me harder than giving birth. I recall wondering how my body would respond once the baby was actually in my arms instead of my stomach. Would I...I don't know...mourn the detachment? Well, no--because now I could hold him and actually see his little face (even when he was screaming, he was still pretty freakin' cute).

But now, I couldn't even see that. Sure, I had a picture on my desk, but that was a poor substitute for the little man who had just started smiling, sitting up on his own, and developing a personality. (The now almost 3-year-old little man who just this morning declared that I was a mommy monkey, he was a baby monkey, and Daddy was a T-Rex. Of course.)

Three years later, I've adapted. I love being a mommy, and I also love my job. I wouldn't want to give up either. I love the great discussions with my students, the moments they surprise me with a brilliant essay or project, conversations with colleagues I respect and admire, and the purpose I feel every morning.

But I also love hiding out in dinosaur caves, drawing with sidewalk chalk on the back deck, mixing up granola bar batter, and even reading 10,000 stories before bedtime with the Teege.

I thank God every day that I have a job which affords this precious gift of time. Sure, we both sacrifice as teachers. Combined, we make a lot less than many of our friends earn individually. So we live in a tiny house and don't take fancy vacations (or really, any vacations--visiting the in-laws in L.A. is it. Not that one can really complain about L.A.!) We have a luxury that many don't--peace--and I will never, ever give that up.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

"It's gonna come out..."

So says my almost-3-year-old about the almost-done-cooking baby sibling! (Of course, he follows this up with "It's gonna go back?" Sorry to disappoint, my young is indeed gonna come out, and your life will be forever altered!)
(BTW, the above is my current profile pic on's "doppelganger week," and I've had to guffaw at some of the celebrities people claim they look like. Being that the only celebrity I've ever been compared to is Sandra Bernhard, I opted for Juno--at least our bellies are doppelgangers these days!)

As I approach the due date (March 8, but I swear this kid is coming early--there is simply NO ROOM left in the Inn Utero Romero), I'm feeling a mix of emotions: excitement, fear, joy, anxiety, exhaustion (is that an emotion or more a physical state?), and guilt. None of these are new, and thankfully (surprisingly), stress is not in the mix this time.

In February '07, I was going through a helluva time. We had recently decided to uproot our lives in JC/NYC and move/buy a house/find jobs down in PA...while raising an infant. Instead of focusing on the joy of welcoming our first child, I was completely preoccupied with what I was "giving up"--friends, security, the feeling of being established, and the totally selfish lifestyle of kid-free couplehood.

This time, however, we are settled in our home, jobs, and starting to really put down some roots. Our little man is happy as a clam, my family is nearby, and suburban life fits us like a snug glove.

And the guilt that I feel is of a different sort this time. Before, I felt guilty for thinking that this baby was "making us" change everything. In retrospect, he saved us--forcing us to grow up and slow down.

Now, I simply feel guilty that I won't have as much time and attention to pour over our little guy. But I tell myself that it's all good--it's time for a sibling, and honestly, he probably won't mind that Mommy is no longer up in his face all the time!

So I'm just enjoying these next few weeks as best I can--going to prenatal yoga with my cuz-in-law, cherishing the last few classes with my students, and loving these last few moments as just a trio with my boys.