Monday, November 2, 2009

The Crazy Haunted Experience

I learned a huge lesson this Halloween! Have you ever done something with your children you wish you hadn’t done? When you were finished doing what you deeply regretted did the thought of “I’d rather pluck out my nose hairs than repeat that experience again” cross your mind? Well, that is the exact thought that crossed my mind the night before Halloween. Now that I look back on my mistake I can laugh about it, but I definitely wasn’t laughing when it happened.

It was a Friday night and we had already promised our four children (Chad Jr., Grace, Abigail, and Joseph) that we would take them to our small town’s haunted house. They were all ecstatic except for my son Joseph. He was scared and crying before we even left the house! He will be six soon and he has a knack for freaking out. I assured him that if he was too scared that I would sit with him in the truck. By the time we arrived the crying had stopped and he wouldn’t hear of sitting in the truck. “Men don’t sit in the truck Mom” he insisted. Now I was the one with an uneasy feeling about him going in. My mother’s intuition has become quite fine tuned over my service of parenthood, but I wanted to be supportive and let him make the decision. We were freezing while waiting in line outside and this kid came running out dressed like a monster dawning a roaring chainsaw, and along came “Mommy carry me”! He isn’t a large child, in fact he’s quite small for his age, but I’m a five foot one inch and ninety four pound woman with an awful back! What did I go and do? Me, trying to being the super mom that I am, picked him up and out went my back. Chad, being the sweet man that he is, took Joseph because he was still insisting on going in. Finally, it was our turn to go inside, my back was killing me, and I’m thinking dumb, dumb, and dumb. Poor Chad didn’t get Joseph ten feet in the door and Jo was already not enjoying his experience. The crying was back. Let me add that these ghoulish creatures with scary tools and instruments were high school students with a sick sense of humor. Chad Jr. was wrestling around with some of the monsters in the front of the line (who were all friends of his) which slowed the process down considerably! I had two little girls (ages nine and seven) attached to my arm and leg as they were pushing and shoving me through the place while screaming, and at the same time I’m irritatingly saying hello to all of the spooky creatures. Chad and Joseph were in front of us a ways and I could hear Joseph as the crying turned into a terrified wailing of “go back”. The high school monsters were absolutely loving my son’s terrifying experience and were making it much worse. We finally got to this room and they had us sit down and I was thinking “cool it’s over”. Boy was I wrong! The wailing had gone back to crying, but Joseph wasn’t about to let go of Chad. After we sat for a minute they led us to some stairs with strobe lights going wild at the bottom and the reality of doom hit me. We were only half-way through, and I realized just then that it was only going to get worse. Poor Chad was trying to reassure Joey that he wasn’t going to die while Grace and Abigail were trying to shove him down the stairs! We made it to the bottom of the stairs, alive, when I decided that it was a great idea to haul butt out of there before permanent damage was done to Joseph’s mental health and to Chad’s hearing. I was back to saying hello to the ghouls, and then they noticed they wouldn’t have any fun with me and preceded to move on to the wailing five year old boy and the screaming seven year old girl. By that time Joseph’s wailing had turned into a traumatized shrieking while he was screaming “get me out of here”. Chad’s reply to that was “Oh buddy we are going!” Joseph was pleading for Chad to “go back, go back” while Chad was trying to make Joey realize that he couldn’t do that. Then it got worse, because in the midst of me trying to greet terrifying monsters while the girls were climbing up my legs and arms like possessed monkeys and shoving at me, I was trying to get Joseph to release his death grip on Chad and hide his face in Chad’s neck. Meanwhile at that very second Chad could tell that something had popped up behind him, because Joseph grew rigid like a board and let out a scream that I didn’t think could come out of such a tiny body. Chad turned around and there was a six foot four kid dressed out of a terror movie standing behind him amidst the blindingly bright flashing strobe lights. Two minutes later we finally made it out of there, once again alive, with Chad Jr. laughing, the girls yakking about how much they loved it, Chad deaf in one ear, Joseph was crying and saying “I don’t ever want to go back there”, and “Don’t make me do that again”, while I was walking like a ninety year old woman in desperate need of a walker. On our way to the truck I told Chad that I didn’t think my back and arms would ever be the same again. His response to that was “I don’t think my ears will ever be the same”. As we got into the truck I overheard Chad say “You weren’t scared at all were you Joseph?” “Yes I was!” Joseph replied.

There are a few lessons I learned from my experience. Number one; always follow the little voice in your head when it’s warning you. Number two; if you choose to ignore number one when kids are involved, take some pain killers, muscle relaxers, Xanex if available at least thirty minutes before you leave, bring earplugs, and give Dramamine to any finicky children. Number three; bring child sized earplugs and a night mask just incase. Number four; if you aren’t sure your child is ready Do Everyone a Favor and see lesson number one. Of course I was joking about drugging up my child, but sometimes it would be tempting, huh?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photographs In Our Minds

I often find myself wondering just how many people go through the events of everyday life on autopilot. How many people can remember the little details of watching their children grow? Can they remember that the sun was shining, or what the breeze felt like on their faces as they watched their children hunt for eggs at an Easter party? Do they remember in detail the way their children smiled and squealed? When a wife or husband dies suddenly, does the spouse remember the way the other smiled as if they were there again? Can they almost feel the warmth of their body when they had embraced? I wonder how many people end up wishing they had paid better attention to the finer details in life. I took my children to the park one beautiful fall evening and taught myself a very important lesson. As I watched my children run to the playground at my apartment complex, and as an unemployed single mother and full time student, I found myself thinking about how I was going to pay this months bills, what was I going to make for dinner, and how I was going to get enough energy to write the English Composition Paper that was due tomorrow. It saddened me when I realized how fast they were growing up and how I was missing it! Then it hit me like a lead brick! I had been so worried about the stressful little details of my life that I couldn’t remember the important details of my children’s lives! You know the details that make up our memories! I couldn’t remember the expression on my daughter’s face when she opened up her presents at her last birthday party. I realized really fast that I was missing out on these things as if I hadn’t been there simply because I was too busy just trying to survive my life instead of really living it. I was on auto-pilot and didn’t even realize it until I snapped myself out of it!

I made a deal with myself. I told myself that I had to stop in moments like this, actually live in the moment, and pay attention to the more important details in life. I forced myself to feel the cool breeze that gently brushed my face and contrasted with the warm sun which tickled at my skin. I listened intently to my children’s laughter, to their squeals, and to my son talking and cooing softly to himself! My five-year-old daughter Grace had made her way to the swing set as I sat down on the hard and cool metal park bench. She was pumping her little legs and swinging back and forth as high as she could. Her long, shiny brown hair trailed behind her like a silken scarf on a breezy day. As she was looking up at the autumn sky with her crystal blue eyes, I remember thinking, she’s been through so much in the few years she’s been here and yet she looks so relaxed. As I sat watching Grace I heard my three-year-old daughter Abigail let out a squeal as she flung herself upside down on the monkey bars. While she was still upside down she was just letting her body swing back and forth with the most wicked and happy grin on her face as her curly brown hair bounced wildly! “Watch me Mommy!” she squealed as she sat up and did it again as her black-brown eyes danced with life! The thought that immediately came to mind was this one is going to be my wild child! At that moment, my twenty-month-old son Joseph jabbered something softly to himself as he grabbed a fistful of the warm sand he was sitting in, and was letting it sift softly through his tiny hands. I could almost see his mind working under his bleach-blonde hair as his blue eyes watched the sand flow from his fingers as it sparkled in the sunlight. I instantly knew that someday I was going to miss days like this when their innocence won’t flow as freely.

Later on as we walked back to the apartment I noticed just how at peace I felt. For once I didn’t feel as if the weight of the entire world surrounded me. I mind felt clear and I was happy for the first time in a long time! I realized that as we get older, because we worry so much about every detail in our lives, we forget how to stop and just enjoy the moments in life that now seem like a gift to me. Children come by this naturally, but as we become adults we have to be consciously aware of it. I remember that day, and many other’s, in detail to this day because as I was living the moment I paid attention to every detail of the experience. I engrained the memory in my mind. I remember exactly how my children smiled, the fine lines in their faces, the way their laughs sounded, the way the sun and breeze felt as I watched them play. You see, memories are like photographs in our minds in that if we pay close enough attention to the details of the moment and engrain them into our minds, those memories will become a permanent photo in our minds to be held in the album that, when we are older, will be defined as our life. I know that day will always be with me in my mind, even when my children no longer are. I routinely find myself storing away details. Whether it is the way my husband’s body feels when he is curled around me or the look on his face when he smiles at me, and even the silly things my children do or say. We only get moments like that once and you can either keep them forever or forget them. Sure, we can go through life wishing we could do this or that to live our life better and with more freedom and fun! If we dwell on the way our lives aren’t instead of enjoying the way are life is we won’t be able to look back and remember the times we wished we could have back, simply because we spent so much of our lives focusing on what we didn’t have to enjoy making the memories that will last a lifetime! So here is my challenge to you, don’t worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ in your life, and find the good in the life you have and take as many mental photographs as you can. Someday the memories might be all you have.