Being the New Kid on the Block

Let me tell you a little story about being the new kid on the block: it stinks.  We were all the new one at some point.  Our first day of kindergarten or first day at a new job.  Those first hours are exhilarating as you face the unknown.  You sport  a new outfit, maybe even a new hairdo.  The doors to a whole new world open up to you, presenting  unfamiliar faces: potential allies and friends.  The past is a train that has long since departed.  No one knows you.  You can pave the path to becoming a whole different person.  “I am adventurous” or “I am upbeat”.  No one can stop you – but you.

There’s that ‘but’.  That dreaded ‘but’ always gets in the way of an easy life.  With a field of possibilities, what creates this ‘but’?  To explain I have to step back in time.  I was raised in a split world: half of me grew up surrounded by my maternal family – a steady un-altering ground.  The other half lived the military brat lifestyle: most of my school years were spent on military bases and my friends and I moved all the time.  Whoever was my best friend one year could potentially live on the other side of the world the next year.  The advantage to this situation is that now I have friends on literally every single continent.  The disadvantage is that I have friends on every single continent – and our friendships have spread so thin over the years.  But jump ahead a decade or two, and here I am now living in Mississippi and it looks permanent (how did that ever happen…)

I have the innate ability to make friends easily, and the ones I have made here make me a happy person.  Certain thoughts and realizations, however, put salt on an open wound, and that brings me to today.  I am days away from turning thirty years old.  (Sigh.)  Yet once again, I am back in college.  I am working on a second degree since my first has flopped tragically.  Thankfully the years have fared well on my face and, besides the hidden stretchmarks of motherhood, I still look reasonably young.  None the less, there are small details that set me apart from the young college crowd:  my wedding band, the drawings my boys have taped onto my day planner, and the over-sized bag I carry with half my house in tow.  As I write this I am sitting in The Commons, cruel irony considering I feel no commonality with anyone in the room.  One hipster has a laptop covered with propaganda stickers.  A brunette (who, may I add, is fishing way out of her league) is hovering over him flicking her hair to the side as she flirts with the Ron Paul fan.  At another table another couple is bent over a nursing book exchanging notes.  All I can do is ask myself, “What are you doing here?  This is no place for you!  You don’t belong!” Ah! There it is! The “you don’t belong” fear!

We have an option on that first day of whatever it is we are encountering: we can be the wallflower who’s eyes dart quickly from people’s glances, or we can peel ourselves out of that shell of shyness and become known.  Anyone that knows me will say that I have never been, nor will I ever be a wallflower.  I have mastered the skill of becoming the newcomer everyone knows.  I have mastered the ability to make friends with the most difficult people (BE, that would be you!), or those who are even more of a newcomer than I am (OV), or neighbors (SB).  As I unravel my persona – the new one I create for each new friend or the old one that just sneaks out over time, I am still left wondering if I will ever actually belong anywhere with anyone.  Will they ever think “Back in the day with Nicole…”?

Until then, however, I will just be…adventurous; no, upbeat; no, just me…

welcome

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Being the Queen Bee

When I was just a little girl, a weird lady from our community claimed that she could predict not only how many children you would have, but also their gender and the order in which you would have them.  I caved in and had her check in on my future offspring.  She used a ring tied to a string and if the ring swung in circles it indicated a girl, while a straight back and forth swing indicated a boy.  My ring never swung in circles – just back and forth: three times.  So when I went in for my first ultrasound many years later, I was not at all surprised when the doctor pointed at that extra male appendage.  At the second baby ultrasound, again, the doctor showed me you know what.  By the time I reached my third baby’s ultrasound I dreaded that devilish woman and her stupid prediction.  I wanted a girl so badly.  Someone that could be like me, someone that would wear pink tutus and play with dolls.  But I knew deep down that I was bound to have yet another boy.  This time the doctor didn’t even have to point it out to me: I became an expert at decoding ultrasound pictures of little wee-wees.  So there’s that: no more chances of pink for me (have you tried paying the grocery bill for 3 boys and the dad?? No more babies allowed!)  But then something happened.

Maybe when I had Baby G I was too young to notice it.  And maybe when I had Baby D I was too busy with a toddler and a newborn to notice it.  But this time around with Baby W, I am older, more mature, calmer, wiser, and I tend to notice more details than I did with his older brothers.  There is just something between a boy and his mom that is so special and so grand and I have it threefold!

We were out with family one day and Baby W was passed around like a hot potato: everyone wanting to hold him.  He fussed a bit as all babies do, but when he got back to me, he just looked at me.  And I mean LOOKED.  His eyes were deep in mine.  I talked to him and I smiled at him.  I saw that look he gave back at me: it was so full of love, pure pure pure love.  It might be due to the fact that I am his sole source of food, but it has to be more than that.  I mean, I don’t look at the oven like that, and I love food!  But his look reflected peace, comfort, happiness.  I didn’t see that look on his face when he was with other people.

My eyes were opened now to this new idea that I might actually be really special out there to someone, that I might be the Queen Bee in a house full of boys.  I tested my theory in two ways:  with my older boys, and with another baby.

I started watching Baby G and Baby D: they don’t want to be swaddled and held close, but they do listen to me and react differently to me than they do with anyone else.  When they came home from school last week, I left them each a note on the door.   Baby G’s note was detailed: it listed the chores, his responsibilities, and then thanked him for being a great big brother.  Signed, I love you, Mamma.  Baby D’s was more simple, easier for a new reader:  a picture of a big smiling sun and the words: I love you so much! Mamma.  The boys’ reactions to the notes were similar to Baby W’s reaction when reaching me during his hot potato toss.  Their eyes shined with happiness and ease, and all it took was a note!  What power do I have over these boys?  What power does any mother have over her boys?

My second test involved another baby.  I used Baby M as my guinea pig.  He is my Godson and just a month older than Baby W.  He is a sweet beautiful baby boy, but the key to the test is that I am not his mother.  I held Baby M and I cooed with him and kissed him and cuddled with him, I looked at his face.  He looked content, happy even, but it was not the same.  He gave the boys the same look when they came in close and made silly faces at him.  He likes us, that’s for sure, but he doesn’t love me as deeply.  But his mamma – oh I saw him with her – he was mesmerized by her face, so thrilled to see her with him again.  She has that power too!

So today I sit here with the realization that I have been given this honor to raise three boys, just as that lady had predicted years ago. I won’t be playing with dolls or dressing them in pink, but I will forever be the Queen Bee.  The Man has told me that he fears the day the boys bring home their first girlfriend because he knows how rough I will be on that young girl.  So long as she is fantastic, smart, beautiful, great, amazing and…maybe I will be OK passing on the privilege of my being with my boys.

A Queen's Love

A Queen’s Love