my life as a suburban mom

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Yesterday I wore a lot of hats--grateful Al-Anon member at a morning meeting, best friend and workout partner at the gym, politicking faculty member in a chance encounter with an administrator, appreciative daughter sipping her mom's chicken soup, chauffeur to kids for swimming, Japanese, and cello lessons. I would have been happy to collapse into bed quietly last night, but that wasn't an option, because last night was also Alex's birthday party.

We started out at a local arcade establishment, where the kids got tokens to spend on machines, as well as pizza and cake. Because Gerald is friends with the owner, the kids also got to ride for free on the go-karts there--and I went as well. What fun! I had never tried that as a kid, but enjoyed the pedal-to-the-metal hairpin turns enormously this time. We then brought home with us not only our two kids, but five more boys ages 8-10, who spent the night camped out in our living room.

This morning we did tag-team parenting--Gerald got up early to cook pancakes, while I slept in until 9 (around here, that's very late indeed). Then he went off to run errands and hit the gym while I supervised the seven boisterous boys. Between 9:30 and 11:30 all but one were picked up by parents. And a few minutes ago, my two left with the final guest--they're off to his nearby house to play video games.

So here I am, in the eye of the parenting storm. It's still and quiet now, and I can hear myself think for a few minutes. But tonight is Halloween, and the energy level will be building again between now and then.

For over seven years now, I've lived in a neighborhood that is much like the one I grew up in back in Buffalo. The kids are close-knit, the parents are friendly. We know each other, we have a sense of community. Halloween is a practiced ritual--our kids will don costumes (my boys are ninjas this year) and band together around 6 (aided by the earlier darkness that arrived with last night's time change), with a number of parental delegates tagging along behind. They'll careen from house to house, squealing with delight over the rare house that gives out full-size candy bars, and grousing about those who toss them a scant handful of boring hard candies. Meanwhile, we parents will lurk on the sidewalks, occasionally shouting a reminder to say thank you, or not to trample flower beds.

By 8 or so they'll be worn out from running, and tired of carrying their bags. They'll make one last stop at the neighbors who are famous for giving out self-contained drinks rather than candy (heavy, but welcome after a long night of walking), and will retreat to their houses to dump their bags of treats on the floor and sort them out. There's the "eat it now" pile, of course. Along with the "save for later" and "maybe I can trade it" piles. There's the "who on earth would eat this?" pile, and--if I'm lucky--a "give it to mom" collection. (They know my favorites, and they also know there are long-term benefits to keeping mom happy.)

After we've looked over the piles and given our blessing (we've never had safety problems with candy around here, but we still always check), they'll devour as much as they can, inevitably getting to the point where they feel ill. And then, as the sugar wears off, they'll crash--hard--and hopefully sleep late tomorrow.

I've not been online much this weekend, because being a mom on a weekend like this is more than a full-time job. But it's worth the time and energy it takes. I'm very, very grateful for the sense of community we have here, the fact that I know my kids' friends, and their parents...that I know my neighbors, and the school principal, and the owner of the local arcade. It's a good life that we have here.

2 TrackBacks

... I've heard plenty of Britons saying this is one American invasion we can do without but I actually disagree. This isn't an American invasion - the US equivalent is actually pretty harmless in my experience. I'd say this is a symptom of Britain's cy... Read More

Halloween Linkfest--Sunday Edition from Jennifer's History and Stuff on October 31, 2004 4:55 PM

Happy Halloween! Let's see who has the spirit... Flibby has pictures of his outdoor decorations...which inspired me to do spooky cutouts of my own for the windows this year. SarahK follows up on the party she attended...including a picture of... Read More

3 Comments

It's hard work, but certainly rewarding.

Wow, that trackback from Webmink, along with your post, are excellent. For some reason Halloween has spread to Norway too, though, as in Britain, it was as unlikely a night for us to celebrate as Thanksgiving. Even five years ago I never saw any kids out trick and treating, but now they come.

For some reason, as Webmink writes of Britain, tricking seems big. Because nobody except families with school kids realises that kids are going to be swarming the neighbourhood, most houses don't have sweets. We solve this by only going to families we know, but it's still not really very pleasant, and the bigger kids, or the kids without parents with them get rowdy. Eggs get thrown on houses or smashed into letterboxes. Big boys dressed as ghouls (always scary costumes here) scare smaller kids out dressed as ghosts or witches. Even my sweet band of girls were yelling that they wanted to TRICK someone now. Finally we let them trick me - I pretended to be cross and to refuse to give them sweets and they wailed outside
until I "gave in" and gave them some.

In Norway we have an equivalent tradition on New Years Eve, when kids dress up in fancy dress of any sort and sing carols for neighbours, who very merrily hand out sweets. After taking my daughter and six other kids round trick and treating this evening, I far prefer carolling to this. And I'm pretty sure we've got it wrong here.

We had great fun at the party before going out, though. I like excuses to celebrate, especially at such a dark, miserable time of the year. Such a pity the kids are so hung up on the damn sweets, though, and on the tricking. And they're so young - they don't know that five years ago, nobody went at all. They don't understand that most grownups don't think of this as a legitimate tradition.

I don't know how all the kids worked out that this is something you simply have to do. Every kid in the school now goes trick and treating. Strange.

Go-karts in Upstate NY?!? Where???

In my 6 years up here, I haven't found a single place in either Rochester or Syracuse. Back home in the suburbs of Cleveland, OH, there's tons of places, each with multiple tracks. I miss go-karting in the summer!

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 31, 2004 1:08 PM.

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