Today I made pancakes. Lots of small, dollar-sized pancakes. And today I served them to my seven-year-old daughter and her friend who slept over last night. Shea and Julia, today, are the same age I was when I would wake to a hundred tiny, dollar-sized pancakes and bacon, and being the same age, we ate them all. Today, I served up those same pancakes without the bacon (Shea has been a self-proclaimed vegetarian since the age of three). Today I became Christine Colby and I couldn't have been happier.
You know those moments in your life when you stop and look at yourself as if from the outside and realize you had become the people you had looked up to for so long. The first realization came during my first year teaching at Santa Ana High School. Being barely older than the students themselves, I often felt like I was playing dress-up wearing business suits to try to hide my youthful appearance. I had been chased out of the office a time or two because someone thought I was still a student. During the first test I gave,
while my students were working hard, while I was walking around the classroom to try to catch the cheaters, I had a moment to realize what had happened. Without me knowing it and without really ever planning on it, I had become a teacher. I was the one who held their grades in my hand, who they had to try to fool to get away with their cheating, the one who a few of them looked up to as knowing everything in the world about science (little did they know I had never taken an earth science class in my life.) I wasn't overwhelmed with pride at having achieved my goal in life; I never set out to be a teacher. I wasn't excited at the power I now held to allow a student to use the restroom only when I deemed it a good time; I never really liked having to ask to use the bathroom when I was in school and I certainly felt a little weird when students felt they had to ask me. I was just startled that I had become an adult without even noticing it or really ever wanting it.
The second time I just had to laugh. It was one of those times when that old saying I heard a thousand times as a child had come flying out of my mouth without ever having a chance to stop it. Shea had been standing at the fridge for at least five minutes thinking that, maybe, if she stared at it long enough, some item of food would stand up and scream, "Hey, if you put a little of me on that loaf of bread on the bottom shelf over there, and then spread some of my neighbor, Mr.Jelly, on another slice, you might just have a sandwich that would fill the hole in your belly." The peanut butter never spoke up and so she sat with the door wide open waiting. Then the words flew past my lips without waiting for my mind to approve. "Shut the refrigerator door. You'll let all the cold air out." And, in a flash, I had become not only my parents, but, every set of parents form the baby boomer generation that were counting every penny wasted by leaving that fridge door open. The same parents who reminded us of the plight of the starving kids in Africa when we were full and didn't want to eat food just because it had been placed on our plates (maybe, if we hadn't been told to clear our plates every night, we may not have the obesity epidemic we have in America now.) I had now, with one exclamation, become one of the thousands who had gone before me who are suddenly enraged at the thought of cold air escaping the bounds of the fridge. I had unwittingly become the parent of the sitcom, and I had to laugh at myself.
Today, however, was a moment I had looked forward to for years. It was one I had pursued and one I was ready to embrace. You see Christine was not like most of the other moms. She liked music and had favorite movies. She went to concerts and took vacations with her girlfriends and traveled. She did stuff. She had a life. And at the same time she never let it take away from her kids or her husband. She was one of the few moms that was a real person outside of being a mom. Maybe she was the only mom who let us kids see her outside life, but I think she may have been one of the only ones who actually had a life. Now that I have kids of my own and know people with kids, I see far too many women who lose themselves in their kids. Their entire lives become about those kids. They do for them and love them and they do a great job, but, even when they have a moment to be with other adults they still talk only about the kids. They never do anything for themselves, they have no hobbies or interests outside the kids. And then when the kids grow up and go off to college they are left with themselves, but, they have forgotten who they were and have no idea of where to start looking again.
Christine was never one of those women. I knew from the time I was eight that she was the kind of mom I wanted to be. I wanted to travel with my girlfriends. I wanted to ski. I wanted to be a person despite the fact that I was a mom. And I wanted to be a really good mom, just like Christine. One who invited the neighborhood kids over and who was really close to her kids, who was always there when they had a problem and offer really good advice. A mom who let her kids take all of the quarters she saved in a 5-gallon arrowhead jar when they wanted to bike to the local pizza joint and get a slice. A mom who planned great birthday parties and who worked the snack shack at the softball field. I wanted to make homemade pizzas every Friday for family movie night. And I wanted to make hundreds of tiny, dollar-sized pancakes when my daughter has her friends over for sleepovers. It's the one part of becoming an adult I have not accepted begrudgingly, but, have looked forward to with anticipation for years and am so glad to now say that I have become. Today I became just like Christine Colby and I couldn't be happier.