Freelance by Jen

Consider me the No More Tangles of your writing needs.

As I write this, one twin stepson is drumming with god knows what item on god knows what surface – loudly, relentlessly. The other twin is yelling “WILLYOUSTOPWILLYOUSTOP” in an unbroken chain of loud monotone.

I just finished listening to the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast about all sorts of life hacks (Episode 290: An Extravaganza of Hacks!) while I pretend to work from home in our office. One said hack was designed to maintain sanity, during which it was suggested to embrace the “marvelous mundane” parts of life, such as when (in the case of the podcaster) her husband would fold his clothes every night and set the pile on the floor, four feet from the hamper. This was understandably driving her batshit crazy; he wasn’t going to change and she wasn’t going to enable.

So instead of losing her mind and burning the house down, she began to consider what it would be like if he died (I’m not kidding), and concluded she would miss these little things that used to drive her crazy.

And that’s kind of where she lost me.

I’ve been on both sides of this. I have lost someone I loved. In another sense, I have lost my son (whom I love, really!), due to him growing up and moving out. When I met Josh, his twins were six, and I used to tell him, when he was losing HIS mind, that one day he would miss these moments. He would long to have back, even for a moment, these times of insanity and exhaustion.

Now that I’ve had a few years to reflect, and the podcast circled it around for me, I realize that this was ridiculous thinking.

See, I do not miss the messes. I do not miss the trails of destruction my son used to make from the moment he exited the car, through the doorway, the mud room, through the kitchen, into the hallway and finally his room, where obviously the trail would run out because he had nothing left in his arms. I do not miss plates and cups being left in bedrooms, or under beds, eventually producing smells that did not resemble food in any sense. I do not miss the smell of teenage boy socks, nor will I ever miss that smell at any point ever again for the rest of my life.

I do not miss the early-morning grouchiness on school days. I do not miss the guilt of making him take the bus that arrived at 6:30, and I do not miss the early morning band practices before he got his license, when he had to be at school at 6:55.

I do not miss finding hidden piles of dirty laundry in the basement store room.

But there are so many, many things I do miss.

I miss the laughter. I miss the times I would ask my son to do something and he’d pop off some smart rejoinder in some ridiculously-pitched voice, and we would both end up doubled-over, laughing without noise.

I miss the times he would compose original songs, scored and lyric-ed, talking about how dumb I was, in a way in which there was a beautiful melody playing alongside his beautiful voice, but the lyrics were something like “My mom is a noob.”

I miss the times he would pretend to be a completely different person for whole stretches of time, or act out bits to distract me from my rage that he hadn’t done something I’d asked of him.

But going back further, I miss my little boy. I miss snuggling him. I miss the “lavender ritual” we’d do to help him get to sleep on school nights, when his anxiety about going back to school was so high he couldn’t imagine sleeping. I’d get out the lavender balm and we’d do pulse points (temples, insides of wrists, behind ears, a touch under his nose) and then drift off to dreamland.

I miss listening to him explain complex scientific theories and published pieces, or how excited he was about elephants, or that the mitochondria was the power house of the cell. I love that he still calls to tell me something that he finds fascinating, and I love that his early love of science has carried him through to the end of his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences.

So while I’m not quite ready to embrace the marvelous mundane with my family, I’m ready to replace my rage…with a happy memory.

Josh treats me as an equal in raising his sons, something that means more to me than he’ll ever know. He also seems genuinely thrilled to have me around, which is a new feeling that never gets old for me.

The boys are really damn funny, and considering that they’re twins, and about five seconds from puberty, they’re great kids. Listening to Cash rejoice about finding hummus in the fridge just now and spontaneously singing a song called “Hummus” (lyrics: “I would love to have some hummus, yeppity yep yep yeppity yep” in his high, sweet voice, interrupting himself to say “I’m basically five foot!” would make pretty much anybody smile).

But I swear to god if they all don’t start peeing inside the toilet, I’m going to burn it all.

Song of the day: While You Were Sleeping, Elvis Perkins. If happy memories are not getting you through your rage with your pandemic-mates, this song will mellow you right out and possibly cause you to silently weep, but in a nostalgia-rich way. It’s fine.

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