Go away, homecoming

Can I say a few things about homecoming?




OK. Now that I have that out of my system, I’ll say this: I’ve never cared much about homecoming. I know to some folks it is the biggest deal ever. In my high school days, the biggest thing about homecoming was using float-building parties as an excuse to be out of the house doing things that made us feel, er, floaty.

Homecoming has changed. My mother and in-laws tell me back in their day it was just a dance. Maybe you wore your good wool skirt. While I never went to a homecoming dance, my friends did. I saw the pictures. It was a night to dress up, no question, but not on the scale of your wedding or a debutante ball. I don’t recall stretch limousines, party buses, full-length beaded gowns and elaborate up-dos, either. For prom, yes. Homecoming, no.

Am I showing my age?

The first hurdle in homecoming is selecting a dress that is neither a budget-breaker nor a vomit-inducer. Luckily, my Girl from the West did a pretty good job of staying within the bounds of taste and decency. There were a few times I had to leave the dressing room in frustration due to disagreements about the proper size and fit. What I saw parading around in the dressing area was both amusing and shocking. First, that some of these dresses were made at all. Second, that they were under consideration for purchase.

The second hurdle is keeping your teenager from slipping into the abyss of senselessness and divahood.  Like wedding No. 2 and baby No. 2, you learn that most of the stuff you thought you had to have for event No. 1 was unnecessary. I had a much easier time this year getting Girl from the West to realize that she had most of what she needed in her closet.

The third hurdle, perhaps the biggest one of all, is my own lack of understanding of how some things work in this world. I had an atypical childhood. I did not participate in many things that most people would consider normal rites of passage. So, now, as the mother of teenager, I question and marvel at things other parents consider standard operating procedure. For example, the pre-dance, picture-taking hullabaloo. After taking the obligatory shots at home with the corsage and boutonniere pinning, I was instructed to drive to a stranger’s house, which possesses some outstanding feature, such as a large foyer, a formal staircase, an elaborately landscaped yard. There, I would join a herd of bored and somewhat confused parents armed with cameras.  For the next 30 minutes or so, it was the red carpet on Oscar night.  I felt like a paparazzo outside a popular celebrity hangout.

In theory, it’s a nice way to get pictures of your teen and her date. In reality, it’s ground zero for drama. Last year, there was a meltdown over a cream-colored gown getting slammed in a greasy car door. This year, one young woman felt the need to openly mock and ridicule her mother, who apparently did not know how to use a digital camera. But it doesn’t end there. This goes on until someone says, “stop the madness.”

I always feel a little off after these experiences. The kids seem spoiled and full of entitlement. The parents seem addled or resigned. I’m scared to death that I’ve become the dim-brained parent of a spoiled teen.  I’m never sure if my perceptions are shared by other parents or if I’m hyper-sensitive. Like last year, I came home, drank a glass of wine, and assumed the fetal position for the rest of the night.

In another dozen years, I get to do it all again.

Oh god, hold me.

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A mother's day

Photo by PedroSimoes7 via Creative Commons

I know a young woman who’s about to give birth.

She is not married.

She made the decision early on to keep the baby and raise it with or without the father.

Some of her family members are not in support of her decision.

They have called her silly, misguided and disillusioned. Not to her face, but to one another. Why? She is not married. According to the family’s faith, babies should not be reared outside of wedlock. Period. In fact, the sin began before the point of conception. She should have remained chaste until her wedding night. That’s the order of things. Their words, not mine.

While I agree that entering motherhood as a single woman cannot be the easy route, I admire her decision to take responsibility.

When her family does things like call her foolhardy,when they do things like boycott her baby shower because “the whole thing is inappropriate,” I ask two questions:

1. Why punish an innocent baby because you hold the mother in judgment?

2. Would you approve of the alternatives: adoption or abortion?

There is no choice once an egg is fertilized and implanted in the uterus but to make a choice. You either go forward and commit, go to an adoption agency, or go to an abortion clinic. Well, I guess there is a fourth option, but I won’t go there in this post.

I know that I would not have been ready to be a mother at 20. I was barely able to wrap my mind around the idea at 29. Once I knew I had a beating heart inside my body, I knew I had to make a choice. I chose to keep my baby and raise it.

Was I married at the time? I was. Does it sound odd that I considered alternatives? Being within the bounds of marriage did not guarantee anything to me. I was not concerned about sinning. Maybe the sin, if you want to entertain that idea, was being careless in a marriage that was on unstable ground. What good to a baby  is a bad marriage? What good to a baby is a father who’s more interested in continuing his college-student lifestyle? What good to a baby is a mother in a low-paying job who has no choice but to relinquish her child to strangers for 8 hours a day? What good to a baby is a marriage where the mother and father fight rather than show love?  The way some people think, a bad marriage with a lazy father and an unprepared mother is far superior to a single mother who is ready, willing and able.

Would this young woman’s family be happier if she’d placed the baby for adoption or elected to abort? These choices keep things tidy for the extended family for sure, but not for the baby or the mother.

Adoption is not a closed door. I have my beautiful baby No. 2 thanks to her birth mother and father. Their pain is my gain. Not a day goes by that I don’t acknowledge that my joy has an emotional price tag. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder when my Girl from the East will ask where her Chinese mother is. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her Chinese mother gazing at the horizon outside her rural village, or at the hazy skyline outside her high-rise apartment,  wondering where in the world her baby girl is now.

Abortion ends a pregnancy but it does not negate its existence. While I have not made the choice to end a pregnancy  — nature did that for me — every January 21st I wonder about the baby that got away, the one that would be 9 years old today, the one I am convinced would have been a boy.  I remain pro-choice, but that experience changed my view on the procedure. One day you are pregnant. The next you are not. You do not go back to who you were before that.  A clean uterus is not a clean slate.

They say she has no idea what’s in store for her. I say even the most prepared woman with an amazing partner, financial security and the means to deal with any contingency can be sucker-punched by the arrival of a baby.

All I see is this young woman filled with optimism and joy over the impending birth of her baby. She has, thankfully, some family members and friends committed to helping her in this transitional period.

Happy Mother’s Day to this young woman and to mothers everywhere, no matter what choice you made in this life.

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