The Four Stages of My Life (and Maybe Yours, Too)

Saturday night, I went to a retirement party for a nurse I used to work with. This was the fourth retirement party I had been to this year, including my own. As I pondered it, I realized that I have had four stages of adulthood involving parties or celebrations.

  • Stage One Bridal showers, Weddings and Baby Showers

Brother Ron officiating  cake Big bear and Mike

This stage took place somewhere between 20 to 30 years of age. During that time, friends were getting married and having babies and not necessarily in that order. Money was spent of gifts for the occasions. Many parties and receptions took place during that time.

  • Stage TwoKids’ Birthday Parties, School Events and Sports

Joe's Ghostbuster birthday   Basketball cake (2) Joe's Star Wars birthday

Baby showers and weddings continued but were fewer. Now, kids’ parties and events took over. Big birthday parties, theme parties, destination parties–each set of parents trying to outdo the other. It was a crazy, expensive time. (If you have read my blog before, you may know that almost ALL of our birthdays happen in March and April. That time of year was harder on the checkbook than Christmas as we celebrated a birthday about every two weeks in our family.)

Then there were the classroom parties–Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. I was a room mother, so it was my job to make sure we had games to play and treats to eat. We room mothers were very creative with our games. (I may do a blog on party games sometime. I even had a game published in Family Fun magazine that we played at one of my son’s birthday parties.)

And there were soccer games, football games, baseball games, all with end-of-season parties (and don’t forget the gifts for the coaches. Someone had to collect the money and buy the gifts.)

  • Stage ThreeTeenaged angst followed by…Parties!

We experienced a short “dry spell” during the early teen years because, who wants to have a party at your house with your parents there?

Around junior prom time, things picked up. These were the “photo op” years. Homecoming, class plays, concerts, marching band competitions, Honors Night, Graduation.

More picsTrumpets rock!cakeOP canopy

  • Stage 4 – Reunions, Retirement and Funerals

IMG_2996 (2) NICU reunion

Just prior to this stage, there is a “mini” stage where the weddings and baby showers return as our adult children get married and have children of their own. The parties and events aren’t as plentiful, but they pop up now and then. I always look forward to them as it gives me a “break” from going to funerals!

During this stage, our parents are dying, our friends’ parents are dying and, unfortunately, some of our friends are dying. We are going to a lot of funerals. It is nice to be invited to a wedding or baby shower now and then just to get away from the funerals. More on funerals later…

We also are going to retirement parties as our friends and co-workers leave the workplace and start  new adventures. These parties don’t necessarily require a lot of gifts and hoopla because most of us have all the “stuff” we need and don’t want any more. We also find it enjoyable just to sit and talk, so no band or DJ is needed. Milestone anniversary parties may include some music and dancing, but most gatherings at this stage are simply good friends gathering to catch up and talk.

Now, for funerals. I think we do funerals all wrong in our society. All that weeping and sadness is crazy! If we believe in an afterlife, then a funeral should be a time of rejoicing because “it ain’t over!” And it never will be! We may not see each other in person for awhile, but the time will come when we meet again. So, instead of being sad, we should party! I have instructed my family and close friends that, when I head for the Great Beyond, I want a good old-fashioned Irish wake. I want people to gather, tell funny stories about me (believe me, I have left them plenty of fodder!), drink to my life and celebrate. I don’t want any crying at my funeral unless it’s from having a hangover.

Polly opening her gifts Susan and John May 2013

Happy “Stage Whatever!”

I Am the Proud Mother of Sons

August 11 is National Son’s Day, a day to celebrate the special boys in our lives. As a mother of three sons, I plan to celebrate. With only 106 days to go, I need to start planning now!

My boys are adults now but they are still “my boys.” Although they all have women in their lives now, I will always be their mother, whether they like it or not. My guys are great and we have a good time. I joke that, when they are all back home, I feel like Monty Python is in the house–or the Marx Brothers. They constantly throw “zingers” at each other and we laugh a lot.

My boys were exposed to many things including old Marx Brothers movies and Monty Python sketches. They could do the dialogue from most of what they saw. They also were pretty good at The Simpsons and other popular shows of the time. I was glad they grew up surrounded by silliness and humor. And it continues!Dads birthday 1998

I am a “boy mom.” I believe that there are “boy moms” and “girl moms.” Some moms can pull off both without any problem, but it has been my experience that we are better with one sex than the other. I was raised with four brothers–smack dab in the middle–two older brothers and two younger brothers. I think that is why I am a better “boy mom” — I can relate to boys.

If I had had girls, they probably would have been tomboys and athletes, not frilly or “proper.” I can barely fix my own hair, let alone curl or braid or add barrettes and ribbons to a daughter’s. I always had skinned knees and a dirty face, so any daughter of mine (poor girl!) would have had the same.

Raising boys is a joy (as is raising girls for “girl moms,” I’m sure.) There are so many adventures and so much activity. Some advantages of parenting, in my opinion, include:

  • Surprises and fun – You never know what your child is going to do. Boys can run up and give you a hug at the most unexpected moments. A day in the park or at the zoo can be an adventure. A trip to the zoo where he notices a bug on the sidewalk or a ground squirrel is just as exciting as the exotic animals. My boys helped me appreciate the “little things” around us as well as the more unusual things.
  • Laughter – I enjoyed the sounds of laughter in the mornings as the little guys got out of bed as well as the guffaws that I heard coming from the basement as my teen-aged sons hung out  with their friends, playing video games.
  • Individuality – I had three sons, but I had three very different sons. My oldest was my cuddler, my social guy with loyal friends, my creative thinker. He ended up studying philosophy in college.My second son was “his own man.” I never had to worry about peer pressure with him because he marched to his own drummer. On the other hand, his nickname as a toddler was “Mr. Destructo.” He became an art teacher. My youngest was (and is) an avid reader, my scholar. When he was in 2nd grade, we were signing him up for soccer (which my other two boys loved to play). He informed us that he was more “into academics than sports.” (His words at age 8.) Even as a toddler, he loved to look at catalogs instead of play with toys. At the mall, the other boys rushed to the toy store and wanted a toy, He preferred the bookstore and we couldn’t leave without a book. He is a high school history teacher.
  • Simplicity – When leaving the house, there was no last minute primping and polishing (unless they were in their Easter best. But primping was pretty much futile then, too.) It was a “come as you are” world for my boys. Things changed later when girlfriends entered the picture, but much of boyhood was spent in casual wear and worn out shoes.
  • Boys clothes – Their clothes were basic and rarely changed in style. My biggest “fight” about clothes had to do with holey sox. I don’t know why it was so hard to get rid of sox and wear new ones. Still a mystery to me.
  • Speak their mind – My boys didn’t sugar-coat, nor did their friends. They spoke their minds, sometimes at awkward moments. “Mommy, why does that lady’s nose look so funny?”
  • Cheaper? – Some people think girls cost more because of their clothes, upkeep, “necessities,” but boys can be pretty expensive, too. Sports sign ups, grocery bills when feeding teenagers, video games, cars and car maintenance, broken bones, girls and first dates. Guys can run up the bills as well–just on different things.
  • Less drama? False! Boys can be pretty melodramatic at times. Who gets to run shotgun? Who ate the last piece of pizza? “Who said you could borrow my MP3 player?” “Why does HE always get to do ____ (fill in the blank)?” “Why do I always have to put the dishes away?”

Raising boys has given my husband and me many memories, mostly filled with joy and laughter. Like how one of our boys (at 3 or 4 year old) used to wait until we were out of town, on the road, when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom because he wanted to pee outside. Or the memories of their many friends taking all of their shoes off inside the front door and our cat going from shoe to shoe, sticking her head in to savor the aroma of each.

Joe's Ghostbuster birthdayOr the birthday parties where my second son had so much faith in my cake-making abilities that he offered a new challenge each year–“Mom, can you make me a Ghost buster cake?””Can you make me a “Superman” cake?” “Can you make a Basketball cake?” Or the time our youngest, at age 2, followed his dad up the ladder to the roof, almost causing our neighbor and my husband to have heart attacks. Or the time we were in South Dakota at Custer State Park, trapped in the car behind several other cars, stuck in a herd of buffalo. “No, you cannot get out of the car. You can see the buffalo just fine.”

The broken collar bone, the stitches, the grass-stained Easter suits, the teen-aged angst, the car repairs were all worth it. Now we have three wonderful girls in our lives as well. I’ll admit, being a mother-in-law is different and there are adjustments, but I don’t think anyone is calling Doctor Phil on me with crazy mother-in-law stories yet.