In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Steamboat Springs I have my life back, and I don’t want it.
Let me explain.
My son, the child formerly known as Peter, has morphed into a teenager and doesn’t need me anymore. He prefers hanging out with his peeps instead of me. One day, he informed me, “Mom, it’s not cool to be seen with you at health and rec anymore.” He just lobbed this comment into the conversational waters without any warning, without so much as offering me a tissue to dab the tears from my eyes.
“What?!” I said. “We can’t go to health and rec?”
“No,” he replied emphatically. “And we can’t go to lunch at Lyon Drug Store, either.”
“What?!” I said. “No more egg salad sandwiches on toasted sourdough bread?” This sandwich has been a staple of our existence, an almost weekly ritual for as long as I can remember. We had the same sandwich except Peter ate my pickle, and I tried to swipe his potato chips when he wasn’t looking.
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “We can not be seen downtown together.”
“What?!” I said.
I offered to wear a disguise, but he would not budge. After much discussion, he finally consented to go to one restaurant with me. It is not downtown. However, I can not disclose the name or the location for fear that will render it off limits.
I am no longer a parent. I am an ATM and a chauffeur. Period.
I know. I know. I know all about this separation stuff and that this is a natural phenomenon like alpenglow, and that I should celebrate the natural order of things. I know. I know. I was the same way as a teenager, and when he was an infant, everyone warned me this would happen. It would all go by too fast to appreciate every minute, which I did. But here’s what all the advice-givers forget to mention: If you appreciate every minute, don’t you miss those minutes when they are gone?
There are no diapers to change, no little hand to hold, no shoes to tie. The thing I miss most is knee hugs — those times when I would pick him up from day care and he would run as fast as his pudgy legs could go and throw his arms around my knees.
Those days are over.
How to cope?
I tried to rent one of his friends. Crazy, I know. But it just popped out of my mouth. Peter was out of town, and I missed him so much that I asked one of his friends if I could rent him for the afternoon. Mostly, it was a joke, but if he had taken me up on it, I probably would have done it.
I confess I call his cell phone. I don’t call in the hopes he will answer because he will not. He only responds to texts. I call because his voice mail still has his baby voice on it. The voice he had before he starting getting hair on his legs and wisps of hair underneath his nose.
The deep voice he has now only says things like: “I’m hungry.” “I need new shoes; they cost $150.” The voice gives me many of the same edicts I used to issue. On the rare occasions he relents to go somewhere with me, he gives me the following instructions in the car: “Do not embarrass me. Do not hug me in front of my friends. Do not wear a fanny pack. Do not sing.”
I was not aware of all of my shortcomings until he pointed them out. Granted I might warble a little in the car if a song comes on that I like, but I would hardly classify that as singing. More like squawking.
When school starts, my chauffeur duties will be in high demand, and I will have six or seven minutes of quality one-on-one time with the child, formerly known as Peter, in the car.
I can’t wait.