wish you were here

When my oldest child, who’s now a sophomore in college, began looking at schools, its distance from our home was never a concern. And frankly, at that point in our relationship, my thought was that a little space might do the two of us some good.

So when he decided to go to a school that was an eight-hour drive away from our house and far from any major airports or train stations, my reaction was, “Have fun!”

Kid #2, a daughter, was just one year behind and when she decided she wanted to apply early decision to the same big, state school, I went along with it. At that point, new to being single and working full-time, my parenting strategy was that if it wasn’t on fire and screaming, “SAVE ME,” I wasn’t about to over think it. “Go for it,” I told her.

In August, we stuffed our car with color-coordinated bins, towels and comforters from Target, set up her dorm room as if it was about to be featured in a House Beautiful spread, waved good-bye and journeyed home.

And that, I figured, was that.

They’d be busy with classes and making new friends and learning all about beer bongs, and before we’d know it, they’d be home with a mountain of laundry for Thanksgiving.

What do I fucking know?

It turns out, college can be stressful for these kids. There are exams that you bomb and classes that need to be dropped. You need to get used to having a flexible schedule and managing your time and getting to bed before 3 a.m. There’s no shrewish older woman living with who reminds you to wake up and go to sleep. No one is there to cut up a kiwi for your breakfast or tell you to eat your broccoli. No one gives a shit.

And then the moment arrives, a few weeks into fall semester, when the new college student comes to the stunning realization that he actually misses that place from which he couldn’t wait to escape and the people that live there. It dawns on that freshman that home was actually not so bad. And neither was his family.

And as a mom, it’s not so easy being on the other end of a text or a phone call when these moments hit. When I can’t just gather that kid close and tell him or her it’s okay and maybe sneak away to get lunch and spend time alone. Just us.

My son started texting me this week and asking about wisdom teeth and when does one know they need to come out. I’ve had very little experience with this subject, other than having my own removed in my early 20’s. (The incident proved yet another missed opportunity to realize that when my soon-to-be-husband, who accompanied me to the extraction, fainted in the recovery room upon seeing me, thus seizing all the attention of the medical staff, that I would never be the star of that relationship.)

So when my kid’s texts morphed from “What’s up with wisdom teeth?” to “My mouth fucking kills,” I was still hoping to downplay the situation. “Gargle with a little salt water,” I advised. “Take some Tylenol.”

This fire was too far away for a quick dousing.

I made an appointment for a consultation with an oral surgeon when my son returns home for spring break in March, and thought I had a handle on the situation.

Until that child called me around 11:00 Wednesday night, upset. Like, really upset because his mouth felt like it was actually on fire.

There I was lying in bed, half delirious with Stephen Colbert and his silliness lighting up my darkened room, with a really upset kid/man on the line and feeling helpless.

But of course, by 9 a.m. the following day, I had wrangled a prescription for antibiotics and made an emergency appointment with an oral surgeon this weekend. He and his sister will make the long drive home in the car they have down at school and regardless of whether that thing needs to be pulled or the doctor can just do something temporary to get my kid through to spring break, I am happy that I will be able to just have him here. I won’t have to rely on an iPhone photo or a text from him to know what’s going on. There’s great comfort in that.

And when Kids 3 and 4 start their college search, you better believe they won’t be going anywhere I can’t get to in just a few hours.


the name game


As I was getting ready to finalize my divorce, I opted to take advantage of the one-time opportunity to legally change my name the day the deed was done at no cost. After spending a grillion dollars to get out of the marriage, it seemed like an offer that at least needed to be considered.

But the decision did not come easy.

I kept polling my kids about how they would feel if my last name was different from theirs, and finally one of my daughters was like, “Just do it already.”

The tipping point came while I was serving on our school’s board of education. Board members’ names are called throughout the monthly meetings – Robert’s Rules-style – for voting. It’s always the formal names used too, no “Kevin” or “Kathleen,” but “Mr. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones.”

During one meeting a few months before my divorce was final, I just couldn’t answer to Mrs. X again. Here I was doing something that was mine, all mine, while answering to somebody else’s name. My wooden name plaque was updated following the divorce and I was proud to sit behind it for the rest of my term on the board.

An article in the Sunday New York Times Style section yesterday explored how some women not only revert to their maiden names following divorce, but go one step further by adopting invented surnames or forgoing the last name altogether.

While I could get behind being known as Amazing Amy or Mrs. Ryan Gosling, I kind of liked returning to my old name. It’s like I never really gave that old Amy a chance. I never really let that girl show me what she could do before I was busy shrugging her off to slip on a new name like it was a new pair of shoes.

When I got married at 24, I didn’t think twice about changing my name. I was in love and apparently didn’t think twice about a lot of things. I would suggest to my daughters when they are getting married to give it some thought. Not in case things didn’t work out with their future husbands, mind you, but as a way of staying connected to who they are.

Sometimes we lose sight of that. I know I did.

It’s weird that women give up their names so easily in our culture and men very rarely do. I think couples should assess who’s got the better name and run with that.

When I went to the DMV after the divorce to change the name on my driver’s license, clutching a Ziploc bag filled with all the ID points you now need, an older woman straight out of central casting sat behind the desk and grabbed my plastic bag. She scrutinized all my information and just when I thought she was going to tell me I needed to go home and dig up another utility bill or Social Security card, she looked up and said, “I like your maiden name better.”

I assumed that in some circles, I would always be Mrs. X. In the beginning, my kids’ friends would say, “Hi, Mrs. X” and then cringe as if they said something wrong and I would assure them they had said nothing offensive. Now, they don’t give it a second thought. The kids of a close girlfriend of mine dabble with an assortment of names: “Miss X,” “Ms. X,” and the teenage girl finally settled on “Amy,” which her mom quickly squelched and now I’m back to Mrs. X. And that’s okay.

There’s confusion living in a small town for so long and being known one way, only to try to get everyone to call you something else.  Fast-forward a couple of years, and my new old name has started to stick. A woman I know in town told me that she was telling her husband – who I’ve only gotten to know after my divorce – that I had sent him an e-mail, but she was using my married name. “Who’s Mrs. X?” he finally asked.

I worry that it makes my kids feel that we’re even less of a family now that we all have different last names. But then I think about the few women I know who married and kept their maiden names and despite confusion at doctor’s offices and calling to set up play dates, at the end of the day the kids know who their mom is.

Maybe there’s hope for younger generations. When my youngest son and I were addressing envelopes to mail to his sister at camp last summer, I showed him how I had written my name for the return address and he asked if he should do the same on his letter.

“Well, you’ll use your name, buddy,” I explained, pointing to the upper left hand corner of the envelope.

“I think I’ll use yours, “ he told me, starting to write his first name and my last name together in blue ink. “You know, I am half yours.”

And so he is.

A version of this essay was posted on Patch.com on July 20, 2011.

valentine’s day is stupid

I am not a festive person. I do not come from festive people.

As such, I do not own colorful sweaters, necklaces that light up like Christmas tree lights or candy cane earrings.

It used to bum my children out that I didn’t want to create a cemetery in our front yard for Halloween or string twinkly lights in the front bushes in December. Isn’t it enough I buy costumes and put up a tree? Can’t they be happy with a wreath?


But it’s the make-believe holidays that make me crazy. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Valentine’s Day.

These are the phony holidays created solely to get you to spend money on things that nobody needs, like Barbie Pez and ties.

So, imagine my chagrin when I found myself last night at Target searching for Valentine’s Day goodies for my two kids still living at home.

Nothing says “I’m a horrible procrastinator” like standing in the seasonal aisle at Target at 5:30 the night before Valentine’s Day, huddled with all the other working moms and clueless dads in front of the few remaining pink stuffed animals and Necco Wafers that all the organized parents hadn’t already scooped up last week. It was like landing on the Island of Misfit Toys: Valentine’s Edition.

But there I stood, thinking, “This is stupid,” while one young mom kept telling her preschooler he was a brat and another mom, who had three little kids hanging out of her shopping cart, employing the “f” word to stop the all their bickering. Right there next to the bags of miniature Snickers bars.

This was obviously not a happy time of day to be at Target (and man, I am usually really happy to be at Target).

Of course at this point, there is not one box of Valentine cards to be found for my 10-year-old son to bring to school the next day. No Dora. No Thomas the Tank Engine. Nothing.

I was talking to my younger sister, who is  like 14 years younger than me and has one toddler, on the phone while casing the joint and reported my findings.

“Go on Pinterest!” she says, and starts describing excitedly something she saw where I’d take my son’s picture holding out his arms and print it out and tape a lollipop to it. And I’m thinking, “Okay, I can do this,” and grabbed one of the remaining bags of lollipops from a bottom shelf.

I turned the corner and ran into a big display of Fun Dip cards that are pretty much the paper pouches containing the sugary dip and weird candy stick that kids can write classmates’ names on. I reached my hand out and hesitated for about two seconds, remembering then that you pretty much can’t send any food items into school anymore due to allergy restrictions, and then grabbed it anyway.

I’ll take contraband over crafting, all day long.


this is how i miss him

In the almost four years since my ex-husband moved out, there have been a few times that I really wished the guy was still around.

Like when it snows. Say what you will, but that man could shovel like a motherfucker. He’d be outside for hours, first clearing the driveway and front walk as the snow was falling and then again later, after the storm had passed. He’d clear a path in the back for the dog to get to a spot to do his business and when he ran out of stuff to shovel here, he’d start in at the neighbors’ next door. He never asked for help and we all stayed warm and cozy inside while he labored in the snow.

He had moved out in December and that winter, the kids and I had to muddle through a few snowfalls, arguing over who would shovel how much for how long and alternating between the one decent and one terrible shovel sitting in the garage.

So the following winter, I decided to give each child his or her own snow shovel for Christmas. The kids came downstairs Christmas morning that year and found a shiny new shovel with a big red bow taped to its handle next to their pile of gifts.

“Mom, that’s so stupid,” they told me, as if I had give them toilet brushes or a bottle of Clorox. They knocked those new shovels aside and moved onto their XBox games and Juicy sweatsuits.

Who then was the genius when the next day a blizzard dumped a good two feet of snow on the Northeast? Ladies and gentlemen, that would be me. Removing all that snow was no longer just a problem for management. The workers had to get involved.

But I also really missed having the kids’ dad around last week when our youngest was hit really hard by the flu. Like, pick a symptom and he had it.

It made me wish I had a better relationship with the man with whom I share four children. I miss telling him what they said or did while he was at work and not having to labor over what makes the story funny or poignant or maddening. He would get it. There is only one other person in this world who loves my children the way I do. Only one other person who marvels at, boasts of and worries about these four people other than me. And I miss being able to share that with him.

So after about five days of battling various symptoms, like vomiting, high fever and croup, the kid looked like shit. Seriously, pale-faced and glassy-eyed. I wished I had someone to talk about it with, other than a doctor. I didn’t want to alarm my teenaged daughter and the patient certainly didn’t want to hear my concerns. I wanted someone to ask, “What do you think?” or “What should we do?”

But we don’t have the kind of relationship right now where I could just pick up the phone and talk.

So, I called my mom who, having raised eight children of her own, has seen her fair share of medical drama. She asked the right questions and gave sound advice and I hung up feeling better about what to do next.

And it got me thinking: if my ex-husband was still around, would the feedback have been as equally satisfying? Or would we just have disagreed about the treatment and prognosis as we did about so many other things?

I stand by the shoveling, though. Man, he could clear a path.


the slings and arrows of motherhood

In my line of work, I have had to learn to develop a thick skin to withstand some of the verbal arrows that have been slung my way over the years.

And let me be more specific: when I use the term “line of work,” I am not referring to my role as journalist or ex-wife, but as the mother of three teenagers who I suspect might sharpen their tongues late at night to inflict cutting words and barbs to the unsuspecting.

Recently, I dragged my 19-year old son to a family counseling session to help us sort out some of the snags we hit when he returned home from college for winter break and was dismayed to find he was still expected to comply with the rules of our house. I needed a neutral party to bear witness and keep me from throttling him.

The therapist got him to admit that he respected me and all I do for our family and then gently coaxed him to share whatever else he might feel for me.

“Well, I don’t hate her,” he shrugged, and then went on to repeat that high praise at least once more during the session.

This is why I suffered through six months of breastfeeding and endured two rounds of thrush? Not to be hated? This is why I cut hundreds of hot dogs into tiny pieces to avoid choking and plodded through countless readings of Courduroy and sat shivering on park benches so he could fill his lungs with fresh winter air? To be placed on the cusp between somewhat likeable and barely tolerable?

But I’ve gotten used to the careless words children sometimes throw my way. In these parts, I have been crowned not only “meanest” but “worst” mother over the years. I also “don’t get it” and “don’t understand,” as if I arrived in the world cranky and in my mid-40s and this hasn’t been a work in progress.

Sometimes I think the girls can be the worst. I have been met with withering stares and told an outfit looked “crazy” as if I’d fallen into an episode of Project Runway, and an attempt to get in on ogling Zac Efron’s hotness with them was greeted with shrieks of horror as I was quickly reprimanded for being “gross.”

“Mom, you’re too old for that,” I was told.

My son headed back to school at the end of last week and came up to my bedroom to say good-bye and as soon as I saw him, I could tell by the look on his face he had had a change of heart.

We hugged for a while and as I heard him sniffling, was reminded that despite his hard, outer shell, the kid is super gooey inside.

Now he’s back at school and we’re practically in love as I tend to his needs — printer ink, textbooks — with a click of my mouse. He’s grateful for my help and I’m just happy to go to bed at night and not have to worry about whether he’s home or why the phone is ringing. And by the time he returns in May I’ll have had ample opportunity to toughen my skin, and my heart, for the long summer ahead.

This essay was originally posted on Patch.com on January 18, 2012.

dude night

As the girliest of girls, I am an advocate of activities like shopping, spa days and seeing big Broadway musicals. And as the mother of two, now-teenage, daughters, I have enjoyed looping them into my girly fun.

Over the years, we have done the requisite mall excursions, mani/pedi outings and weekend getaways to Vermont with more girls to check out foliage and farm markets and browse the local book store.

And my two boys were having none of it.

“You know mom, that’s just not fair that the girls always get to do special things,” my 10 year old son told me not long ago.

His brother, older by a decade (and who never seems in such a hurry to really do anything with me), chimed in, “It’s true, mom. You never take us anywhere.”

They needed a dude day.

So I decided that I would get tickets for the three of us to go see a Knicks game and give them to the boys for Christmas. It seemed like a simple win-win: the older guy is a huge NBA fan and the little one just likes sports.

But, maybe because I need to make a big production out of everything or have to know every detail before I make a decision, I had a hard time pulling the trigger and clicking the “Buy” button as I searched for them online.

First of all, do you know how much tickets to a professional basketball game cost? You have to buy them through Stub Hub because all of the scalpers have already scooped up every ticket for every game at Madison Square Garden and would like you to pay double the face value. Thieves.

So now that it’s turning into more of an investment, I needed to make sure we’re going to the perfect game and have the best seats. The Bulls or the Celtics? All the way up top in the center, or down a little lower behind the net?

Who knew being a dude was so much work?

Eventually, I sealed the deal, printed out our tickets and wrapped them up for Christmas and when the boys opened their boxes that morning, I could tell they were duly impressed.

I navigated us into the city on a rainy Friday night and took them to a midtown pub for a dinner of chicken wings and a pizza loaded with three different types of meat. Man fare. I ate a salad and drank chardonnay.

We joined the throng entering the Garden off Seventh Avenue and I navigated the boys off to the right where fans were lined up three-deep in front of a glass counter filled with Knicks merchandise and hawking all the premiere names.

Growing up, my kids knew not to ask. Whether we were in a supermarket or at Disney World, they just knew that I wasn’t going to buy them that pack of gum at the checkout or the water bottle with the misting fan atop, so there was no use asking.

“Do you want one?” I asked the youngest as he eyed the row of blue and white jerseys hanging in front of him.

He stepped closer to his brother and said in a half-whisper, “Did you hear that? She said we could get one.”

My oldest son is too-cool-for-school. He rocked the skinny jeans and the Bieber hairdo long before the looks were de rigeur for the middle school set. But when the vendor handed him his white Carmelo Anthony jersey, he slipped it right on over what he was wearing and readjusted his Knicks baseball cap — flipped backwards — just right on his head.

Standing behind the two of them as we took the five escalators required to get to our seats high up in the arena, I knew that however much I paid for those crazy expensive basketball jerseys, it was like that VISA commercial.

Tickets to Knicks game: lots of dollars. Parking for train into city: too much. Pizza and burgers: more than you’d ever pay at home. Knicks jerseys: I’d never want you to know.

Spending the night sitting in between your two sons and cheering for your team while they explain everything about the sport of basketball to you for two hours: Priceless.



My kids hate my job.

Check that: my kids are dubious that being the editor of an online news source even qualifies as a real job when it’s happening from a desk in my bedroom.

To them, it makes no difference whether I’m writing about an arrest or if I’m posting “LOL!” on Facebook. As far as they’re concerned, my focus is on my laptop and not on them.

And it’s been a struggle this first year of working at home, trying to set boundaries and not letting my work bleed into time I should be spending with my family.

So one of my New Year’s resolutions, next to getting more organized about my finances and cutting down on my weekly wine intake, is to be more present with the kids when we are together – not listening distractedly as I check my e-mail or being glued to what’s happening on Twitter. To really be focused on what they’re saying.

I even saw a quote attributed to Buddha posted on Facebook (naturally) that I was inspired to share with the rest of the family on a chalkboard in the kitchen. I got out my fancy chalkboard markers and while a few of them watched in anticipation, I wrote: “I am awake.”

And the collective response from my people was: “lame.”

But in the week or so since I’ve written that, we’ve had a number of opportunities to talk about what it means to be “awake” to life.

For instance, the 9-year old insists on losing his new NorthFace jacket twice a week. By last week, he had misplaced the fleece during the big cold snap we had along with his new basketball sneakers, which coincided with the start of the season. After making him scour all the basements in the neighborhood and under all the furniture in our house, his sister found the sneakers in a metal bin in his room that is supposed to hold Nerf guns and other weaponry, not footwear.

Then this morning, the same finder of lost sneakers was running late, trying to slurp the last spoonfuls of soup for breakfast, and ran out of the house to high school wearing fuzzy socks and slippers. She called crying, mortified by her fashion blunder and even madder at herself for having been so discombobulated. This comes on the heels of rushing out of the car last night to play practice and dropping the iPhone – all of two-weeks old – that was on her lap onto the pavement and shattering the screen.

And I am just as guilty of not being present. It makes the kids crazy when I can’t remember something they just told me and I have been known to drive off and forget to take a child or two with me.

We all have complicated lives – with kids and work and dinners and dogs that randomly poop on your rug – and sometimes it’s hard to keep it all in check.

But I am determined to slow it all down, to appreciate this stage of my journey into the wilds of parenting.

So I’ve made a standing date with my high school girls each day after school. I close up my laptop and head down to the kitchen to greet them when they walk in and try to lure them into talking about their day.

I positioned myself down in the kitchen after school last week and they burst through the front door, looked at me and started up the stairs.

“Wait,” I called after them, “don’t you want a cup of tea?”

“Nah,” said the older one.

“We hate tea,” said the younger.

“But we could just talk,” I reasoned.

They slunk into the kitchen and sat down at the table begrudgingly answering my innocuous questions.  I turned my back to grab a spoon and they fled as if from an interrogation, and I thought, “These are the same people who feel like I don’t pay them enough attention?”

When I actually look at them they act as if I’m Medusa and they’re about to be turned to stone.

So let them hate my job and complain I’m always online. Even when I didn’t work I had my nose buried in e-mail and Amazon.

They can complain I don’t pay attention to them, but maybe someday they’ll see what the job gave them, like college educations, and that I found something that allowed me to provide that and still be a presence in our home and have tea in the afternoon.

The kids were sitting around the kitchen table recently and the three older ones were poking fun at my job and what it was exactly that I did and the youngest chimed in, “ She’s like a stay-at-home-computer mom.”

I’ve been called worse.

This essay was originally posted on Patch.com on January 11, 2012

wing mama


For most of their lives, my children had the luxury of having me as their Wing-mama.

If they forgot their gym clothes, homework, instrument or after school snack, I generally would be available to run the errant item over to the school.

If they were feeling slightly under the weather during the school day, and by that I mean either sick or perhaps just sad about one thing or another, I would fetch them and bring them home.

And after school let out, I would pile them in the car—with their granola bars, juice boxes and equipment—and shuttle them around to soccer, CCD, dance or swimming, cheer from the sidelines, and then cart them all back home.

In my children’s minds, things would just magically happen back here at the ranch; there would be chips and cookies in the pantry, their clothes were cleaned and folded and dinner was on the table by 6 p.m. most days.

It was a nice little fantasy I created for them and although I was involved in plenty of volunteer activities and did some freelance work, I made sure it didn’t affect their lives. All the work happened behind the scenes while they were off at school.

But then I went back to work full-time.

Right now, our pantry has a shelf littered with broken bits of potato chips and pretzels and an old can of nuts. We ran out of school drinks earlier in the week and don’t even think about looking for a fresh piece of fruit (there are some petrified lemons in the fridge drawer).

The older three kids are now in charge of their own laundry and judging from the mound of clothes in one of my daughters’ rooms, she must have run out of clean underwear some time last Tuesday.

While my oldest child is mostly annoyed by the food situation (“Mom! Work will not fall apart if you go food shopping!”), it’s my youngest guy, who’s 8, that has really been feeling my absence lately.

Every morning he whines about getting out of bed and going to school. He then mopes around getting himself together before the bus arrives and he begrudgingly boards it for another day in the trenches. Unlike his siblings, he goes to the after-care program at the school each day, and gets picked up usually around 5 p.m.

I made the mistake a few weeks ago of promising him that we would have a special day together, and then I never followed through. The day came and went and I just couldn’t find a hole in my schedule to accommodate him. But last week, I knew I had to find time for him, and so one morning, I told him to grab my calendar and meet me in the kitchen.

We looked together and I pointed to a square not too far in the distant future.

“Write your name right there,” I told him, and he did so in big, block letters.

“Do you see that?” I asked him. “That is officially ‘Nick Day,’ and I’m not going to plan one more thing for that day. It’s just going to be me and you.”

He grinned from ear to ear and had a little bounce in his step as he grabbed himself a box of Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast.

We also put a big “NICK” on my work planner and office calendar, to not only illustrate to him how important the day was but also to prevent me from scheduling anything else.

We told his siblings all about this new holiday, and they went along with it–acting like it was really special–until my daughter found out that Nick and I were thinking about going into the city to see the new Harry Potter exhibit that just opened.

“Whoa,” she said, “I thought he was just, like, staying home. I didn’t know he was going to do something special alone with you.”

It now seems that in the very near future, I will be organizing a “Maddie Day.” I can’t imagine the older two teenagers have any interest in being seen anywhere alone with me, but am willing to declare days in their honor as well.

It’s still a struggle, striking that balance between work and family, but I’m willing to keep trying because I love both parts of my life. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing for the kids to have to do some things for themselves and also like that they see their mom as something other than their personal assistant.

And in just a few months, I can sense them slowly starting to come around.

Nick plays a lot with his friend, Jack, across the street, and his mom sent me this e-mail of a conversation she overheard between the two boys recently:

Nick: Have you even seen my mom’s Web site?

Jack: I’ve seen it with my mom.

Nick: Isn’t my mom a good writer?

Jack: Yeah, I think.

I take heart that he has developed this sense of pride in what his mom does, even in the face of jelly sandwiches and stale chips. And I am pretty sure that neither he nor his siblings ever treated clean clothes or taco dinners with the same amount of respect.

It’s his day, and he’ll have 70 mph blown in his face if he wants to.

The essay was originally posted on Patch on April 13, 2011.

the family bed

Since my ex moved out a couple of years ago, I’ve had a constantly rotating schedule of bed partners. Some of them steal all of the covers and kick me with their long legs, while others are so short that their presence barely registers in my king-size bed.

What’s that, you ask? Am I some type of little person-loving, Chelsea Handler type? Have I joined the ranks of the Moms Gone Wild divorced gals?

Sadly, or perhaps happily, it is usually one of my four kids who have staked his or her claim on the coveted spot beside me each night.  Often, I come home late from an endless municipal meeting to find my room darkened and a big lump where reading material and remote controls usually sit. My immediate reaction is irritation: I’ve got stuff to do. But then I look at that sweet, sleeping face and am glad it’s so close, even though it’s keeping me from Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids don’t come to my room just for the great company I provide. I happen to have an amazingly comfortable bed. It’s like a big marshmallow, with the softest Costco sheets and a heated mattress pad for when the temperatures dip outside. There’s a ceiling fan to keep things fresh and a new flat screen TV to replace the ancient TV/VCR combo, with a Care Bears movie stuck inside, that my ex took with him when he left.

While I often just stumble upon the kids in my room, a lot of times my roommate du jour and I enjoy activities other than just sleeping side-by-side, like reading or watching one of the many fine On Demand movies available, like the seminal Justin Bieber classic, Never Say Never.

A few months ago, my 8-year-old-son asked, “Hey, Mom. You want to get into bed and watch Cougartown?”  Aside from the insane inappropriateness of him even knowing what that show is (youngest of four), how could I not have fallen for a line like that?

There was a time, in the early stages of my separation, that I worried that I was creating a weird mother-child dynamic and potentially unhealthy sleeping habits. But now, I just enjoy the company for the most part and the opportunity to spend that time together. The older two kids are already over the novelty of my boudoir and it’s only a matter of time before the younger two follow suit.

When they were younger, the kids very rarely slept in my bed. I’d occasionally scoop a crying infant out of its crib and let it nurse alongside me as I slept. And one time, my oldest daughter had one of those scary high fevers in the middle of the night that required monitoring. After cooling her down in the tub and filling her with Motrin, I brought her burning hot body into my bed where she created a small oven in the pocket between her father and me while we waited for the fever to break.

But emergencies and personal needs aside, three people sleeping in one bed is annoying. The little kid in the middle, who starts the night all cute and cuddly, becomes a swirling dervish of arms and legs once the lights go out. I need my sleep.

And I never understood the parents that went and slept in their kids’ beds. Haven’t we done our time in stiff, twin beds when we were children? Don’t we do enough for our kids during waking hours—crust removal, hair washing, butt wiping—to absolve us from working the night shift? Enough already.

Last week, I returned home at bedtime from a few days away with the oldest at college orientation while the other three kids stayed home, and we all cuddled on my bed shortly after I walked through the door. Because in our house there seems to be a constant need to claim things—calling “fives” on the TV remote or the last cupcake—my 8 year old “called” sleeping in my bed while the others had briefly left the room. Naturally, the 14-year-old returned and tried to do the same. They argued for a bit, and I suggested everyone slept in their own beds since they couldn’t agree and I didn’t have the energy for mediation.

They muttered for a little bit, and then my older daughter said, “Nick, you want to sleep in my room?”

And before I knew it, they jumped off my bed and went down the hall to her room. I walked by a little later to find the light already off and soft laughing coming from behind the closed-door.

For a moment, I was sorry to not be a part of the fun. But then I went back to my quiet room and snuggled in my big marshmallow and turned on Cougartown.

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