Everyday Orinda – May 2019

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    There once was an old expression, “Too bad kids don’t come with instructions,” an affectionately-disguised warning conjuring the same unease as, “Your captain has just turned on the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign.” Proffered with a peck and a chuckle at the most inopportune times, in-laws loved to say it when they swooped into the maternity suite as you’re struggling to burp your screeching newborn. And, it was mostly true, back in the days before social media.
    I often wonder what it’s like for new moms today. Would I be in a funk after I saw the posts about how little Timmy is already walking, Alex babbles bilingually and Abigail gives young Mozart a run for his money? I envision the ads for child rearing books popping up like weeds on my Facebook feed. Especially after Alexa detects a distinct pattern of mommy juice pouring sounds every evening at dusk. Or slightly before.
    It’s not easy being Mom. And it’s sure not easy being an Orinda Mom. Make no mistake, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m just saying … not easy.
    I’ll never forget a conversation with Karen Murphy from Village Associates Real Estate as we scouted homes together in late 2006.
    “You’ve done an excellent job highlighting all the positives about Orinda,” I said. “You raised your family here so clearly you enjoy it. But tell me honestly, what’s the down side?”
    “Hmmmm….” Karen hesitated, wanting to choose her words thoughtfully. “Orinda can get rather … intense.”
    “Intense?” I repeated. “What does that mean?”
    “Oh, you’ll see,” Karen winked mischievously. “But don’t worry, I can tell. You’re going to be just fine.”
    I hoped that was a compliment.
    Ironically, Jerry Reed summed it up in “East Bound and Down,” the theme song from the 1977 blockbuster, Smokey and the Bandit, “We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there.” Describing both The Road of Life and my daily carpooling circuit.
    Mother’s Day is intense no matter where you live. With it’s aura of maternal rapture, this holiday, eerily similar to New Year’s Eve, makes me nervous. What if I don’t feel properly adored? What if I don’t even feel marginally appreciated? What if no one even remembers? I prepare for an entire day spent hugging the dog and pouting. The ads that really need to start showing up on my phone are the ones for frivolous and pricey Mother’s Day presents I could end up purchasing for myself, in a melodramatic fit of pity.
    Initially, Mother’s Day was like an annual review. When my kids were little, I never orchestrated it. That would have been like planning my own surprise party. I was curious. Will they be affectionate and doting? Or oblivious to my selfless sacrifices?
    I learned they can be a little of both. But I also learned, it’s not malicious. As they grew older, I grew smarter. Mother’s Day became my mandate for the family to dine at fondue restaurants, visit museums or take all-day hikes, basically any activity that would typically register an adamant veto.
    Orinda is all about family. And that’s one of the many reasons why we love it. But we stay so busy parenting, we don’t even remember what it was like not to be so busy parenting. Which is oddly helpful. It keeps us spinning our hamster wheel with intensity. It explains why we feel melancholy when our kids graduate, and we’re legitimately dumbfounded at how it all went by so fast.
    They’ll always love and need us, but they refuse to reveal this. On good days, we call this “independence.” On bad days, we call it “emotional cruelty.” We spend our days shamelessly attempting to re-insert ourselves into their lives in any way they will allow it, much like we did with that love interest in high school who clearly wasn’t all that into us.
    We wonder why we traveled extensively with them as youngsters, encouraged them to try unusual foods and not to balk at unfamiliar experiences. Oh wait, now I remember why. Only after moving to Orinda was I intimidated by an innocent fourth grader who had traveled to more foreign countries than I had. And this was before all the comparison quagmires of social media today.
    Years later, I stand in the airport, fretfully hugging my daughter goodbye as she embarks on a journey five months and nine time zones away. I catch myself wishing, just for a moment, I’d raised her to be a little more fearful, a little more cautious, a little more homebodied. Maybe then she’d come running back and toddler-tackle my kneecaps, the way she would in Safeway if she sensed “stranger danger,” when it was really just an elderly neighbor saying hello.
    Maybe we don’t need the intensity. Or maybe we thrive on it. The point is, you can love yourself and your family while proudly serving as the low water mark for acceptable Lamorinda parenting. Trust me.

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