Birthdays that end in 0

Do you have that person in your life, family or friend, you look up to?

They’re just enough older, prettier, wiser or more with it, than you.

You admire them publicly. Privately you adore them and wish you shared a larger portion of their special brand of magic.Image

For me, that person is my oldest brother, B. He’s turning – well it might be overstepping to say – he’s celebrating a big birthday today. So in between Prima’s strep throat, Secondo’s back-to-school malaise, torturous make-up homework, Mr. Bailey’s job interviews and remodeling our Dusty Rose (Modern Mary’s name for our humble abode) I’ve been meditating on B and how best to mark this big day.

Here’s one of B’s least favorite things to do now that he’s a certain age: talk about himself. (I could remind him here how between the ages of 13 and 18 all he did was talk about himself, his goals and his ambitions, but I won’t. Turns out, being ambitious paid off.) So I figure I can do the talking for him. As a sort of birthday gift from me, he gets words. My words, about him.

B is:

  • Driven
  • Charismatic
  • Ambitious
  • Deeply caring
  • Tenacious
  • Self-deprecating

He’s the guy you call at 2 a.m. in college when a boy breaks your heart. (Thanks, B.)

He’s the one who:

  • Flies in at the last minute
  • Breaks the news
  • Makes the plan
  • Goes for it
  • Leaves no one behind

Here’s what B. won’t do:

  • Let you down
  • Not show up
  • Quit (sometimes when you really want him to.)

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Before you go hitting another blog, rest assured B’s no saint. We’ve had our shouting matches. He’s been wrong about important things. He’s picked fights, stirred up conflict and tried to wring my neck when I was a kid and drew sunglasses on a photo of his girlfriend. (Sorry, B!) I’ve been so pissed at him I once told him to shut up (the ultimate insult in our we-can-always-talk-everything-out-civilly family) and really meant it. He’s also stubborn and persistent in an occasionally irritating way.

But he’s also endlessly optimistic, charming and understanding and a real advocate for anyone who needs an advocate (street kids, homeless, our mom when she was fighting cancer). And he’s always, always, always puts his family first. As the big brother of a big brood, who now has a brood of his own, I’m overjoyed to see all of his herding, shielding, representing first born instincts now at play with his sweet children. B is a great dad and husband, from my vantage point.

B won’t share all about his successes (many). Instead, he’s known in our family circle as a riotous teller of hilarious what-could-go-wrong-next real-life stories that happen to him. Frequently.

B told me earlier this week that one thing he’s learned about getting to an age ending in a 0 is you have to work at lot harder to maintain what you’ve got. I laughed and agreed. (As it turns out, getting the things we want in life doesn’t put us on the Coast setting. Damn!)

But here’s what I think. Getting older is only improving B. And it’s making the lives fortunate enough to be within his sphere, a little bit sweeter as he goes.

Happy Birthday, B.

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The myth of the stay-at-home mom

Mothers in the 21st century are incredibly resourceful and inventive people. They also engage in the most endearing wishful thinking.

Mothers in 2011: We can do it!

Mothers in 2011: We can do it!

About half of my friends are stay-at-home moms, the other half, working moms. At least I think so. To be honest, never a fan of labels, I am a little confused on how that “stay-at-home” sticker really works anymore.

In casual conversation with a mom acquaintance the other day, she mentioned she had been staying up late at night to work. We were at Secondo’s preschool class volunteering at 9 a.m. She was groggy but cheerful. I asked her what she did. She said she was a dj for weddings and events. She went on to describe how she met with couples in the evening, prepped playlists and materials after her two children had gone to bed and then did gigs on weekends and evenings.

“But it’s nice,” she said, yawning as she took a sip of her coffee, “because I get to be a stay-at-home mom.”

Hmmmm….

Another friend of mine who was laid off during the worst of the recession considers herself a stay-at-home mom. She also runs her own artisan business, working until all hours of the night hand-making goods she then goes out in the wee hours to deliver to clients throughout the greater Bedford Falls area. A day or two a week, she works at a couple of local boutiques for several hours at a time.

Another is a “full-time mom,” who teaches yoga, Pilates and spin at two different gyms, has written a book she is now promoting and markets herself in the local press as much as possible.

Yet another is a broker of sorts, working with kids at home two days a week, three others she is out in the field, stopping back at home for lunch, dinner prep, homework time and more. On the weekends and in the evenings, she runs her own specialty school for kids. And she feels incredibly lucky she’s available for her two kids.

Then there are the moms who are teachers, educating and nurturing other children in gorgeously decorated classrooms nine and a half months out of the year and then on-top-of-it, outing-planning, swimming lesson scheduling stay-at-home moms two and a half months of the year.

“I love my job because it matches my kids’ schedule so I can be at home with them,” I have heard more than one gratefully muse.

I admire all of these women. I relate to them. Now that I am a stay-at-home mom, I am scrambling for freelance work, helping Mr. Bailey coordinate publicity, social media and events for the Bailey Building & Loan; I am finishing my master’s degree, shuttling Prima to school, lessons, tutoring, sports, play rehearsal and art classes and volunteering at least twice a month in Secondo’s preschool classroom. I am helping with costume make-up for the school musical, providing marketing advice to friends with businesses and desperately fighting the war of dog hair, unmade beds and rapidly breeding laundry piles.

We are definitely moms, so that label works, but we rarely stay at home. In fact, we rarely “stay” anywhere.

So here’s to finding a more accurate moniker for us all – how about home-based working moms? Unconventional income earners and children managers? Sporadically paid, usually working and constantly mothering? Hmm…that’s a mouthful.

I’ll think about it more today while I stay at home.