“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Monday, April 30, 2012

I Have the Power

For the first time in...possibly a year, I went out for the evening without my husband and children. I'm not kidding. It's been a REALLY long time. Add that to the fact that Joe's job took him to Pittsburgh from August to March, and you'll start to see that my children have become more than accustomed to having me around. Always. Beck and call. Dependent. Reliant. Expectant.

I was so excited to leave today!

It was just coffee with my sister, but not from Tim Hortons and not in my family room. We went to a real place, a favorite of mine actually in South Buffalo called Caz Coffee, because it's charming and cozy and has a little bookstore in back that features local authors. I had an almond coconut mocha and it was amazing.

When I came home, it wasn't much past the boys' bedtime, and as usual, Noah was singing over the monitor. Joe was lying on the couch. I took in this picture of him and asked cautiously, "Did everything go okay?"

He looked at me, eyebrows raised and said firmly, "No."


"It was terrible. They were extremely offended by your absence." I opened my mouth to speak, but Joe put both hands in the air. "I understand that this is the sort of thing I might say as a joke. Let me clarify. I'm not kidding."

"What happened?" I ventured.

Joe let out a miffed exhale that sounded something like, "Kuh!" He continued with, "It's the MOMMY MAGIC. They couldn't understand why you weren't here with your Mommy Magic!" If Joe hadn't been so clearly upset, I would have laughed. As it was, he gave me no room for comment. "Joey called me up twice. Twice! And Noah? Something about dreams? I don't even know. I mean, I already knew they always want YOU to tuck them in, because apparently you're 'the best tucker inner,' but Noah tried to insist that I CALL YOU about the magic. Tell you to come home. He wanted me to call you from his ROOM!"

I really did laugh then, because it was pretty absurd. You're probably wondering what this Mommy Magic business is all about. It started three years ago, shortly after Joey began having nightmares--the really serious kind that made him sweaty and shaky and afraid of the dark. I wrote a whole blog about this the other night but then didn't post it--I do that sometimes--but the bottom line, he's a creative kid with a hugely overactive imagination and it all tends to run out of control at bedtime. Especially after a really busy day.

So he's really into superheroes, right? Like he actually believes my older brother is the REAL Superman. So doesn't it make sense that Superman's sister got a few powers of her own? At the time, Joey was three and wouldn't be convinced that his room or his house were truly safe, or that I could know it for sure. I had to calm him down, so I told him that mommies have magical powers. That we have the ability to keep our children safe. Only mommies have these powers, and all of us have different kinds of powers. Just like Superman is different from Green Lantern who is different from Captain America. They're all heroes, but their powers vary.

The cool thing is, I kind of believe it myself. It's always been said that mothers have that extra sense, that innate ability to "just know" when their children need them, or when something is wrong. Stories are told of women who hear their children crying in their minds, or the age-old tale of the mother who lifted the car off her child. You can go ahead and science it all away with talk of adrenaline and endorphins, or even point out the uncanniness of coincidence, but really...there is a magical truth to it. And most importantly, I truly do everything in my power to protect Joey and Noah.

Joey bought into this right away, but of course with time and periodic recurrent nightmares, the magic morphed into something much larger than a mother's sixth sense, something larger than me. I now have X-ray vision, eyes in the back of my head (because I'm a teacher, Noah says), and various magic spells that ward off everything from Voldemort to bad dreams.

It sounds like a huge pain, but of all the parts of our bedtime routine, the magic is the part I mind the least. It seems to provide both boys with an otherwise unattainable peace of mind. It also allows for the most important means to the end of the battle: it gives them the opportunity to communicate to me what is bothering them and to believe that I can fix it. I can't possibly be in Joey's subconscious to control his dreams, but I can listen to what he is afraid of and verbally will the bad thoughts away. And just that, on its own, helps him think good enough thoughts to sleep peacefully.

And of course, since I've been here to do this every night in the recent past, neither boy could fathom I might be absent THIS night. Especially for something so trivial as coffee with my sister.

"I actually dug out Joey's Harry Potter wand from Halloween," Joe said, disbelieving of such a length. "I took it in Noah's room and told him you gave me special permission to use it. And he knew--even in the DARK--that it was a fake. He yelled at me! He said, 'That's just JOEY'S WAND!'"

Just then, Noah called out from upstairs that he needed to use the bathroom. I went upstairs and opened his door. When I poked my head in, his face relaxed into a relieved smile and he said, "Momma. I'm so glad. I've been wanting some of your magic."

There are a lot of things that the boys want only their father for. They love science, doing experiments, visiting museums, and exploring answers to questions in books or online. And they will only do that with their dad. If I even offer to help, they wave me away dismissively and say, "That's okay. I'll just wait for Dad to get home." When it comes to playing superheroes, Dad knows every name, every ability, and all the background information about each one. If I offer to play, too, they say, "You can be Batgirl. She doesn't do much." And one night, despite all my Mommy Magic, Joey admitted sadly, "You probably couldn't punch out a bad guy, Mom. You're not very tough."

And recently, I came into the family room to spend time with my three favorite people, and found that they were intensely involved with some sort of wizardy/sci-fi/batte-rific video game that I definitely did not "get" or care to "get," and I was completely ignored. I thought to myself, "This will only get worse." I'm the only female in a house full of boys who want to do "boy things," and as time goes on I will fit into that picture less and less.

But at least I have this one thing. I can't punch anybody out, but somehow, I make them feel safe. :)

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