There is an old Yiddish proverb: A half-truth is a whole lie. My kids have never asked how my father died or how their dad’s father died (the same way, when my husband was 12). I have not told them and have no idea what I’ll say when the time comes, but it will probably be a lie. I tell fun stories about my dad — about how much he loved to fish and the time we caught a hammerhead shark in Galveston Bay and couldn’t get it out of the boat and he screamed louder than I did; how he was great at telling ghost stories and scaring me and my half-sister and half-brother out of our wits; about what a great sense of humor he had and how silly he could be. I talk about what an honorable man he was and how much he loved being a Texan; how he had shelves of books on the Rangers and the Civil War and military history; how he had a .22 Western-style six shooter and would take it out back and “kill cans” and spin it around on his finger before popping it back in the leather holster. Then I stop talking.
What does it mean to tell the truth? Seeing as how truth is subjective, and everyone has her own perception of reality, is there really such a thing as absolute truth? Are the stories we tell each other about who we are reflections of our actual experience, or are we programmed to define ourselves within the parameters of a certain expectation? Is truth-telling merely a matter of getting all the details straight, or is it more important to convey the underlying intention when sharing our tales? Do embellishments make a story false? If you’re a newscaster, for instance, and you embellish upon actual happenings, rearrange a few details to make a story cleaner and more easily understood, are you unreliable? Suppose you invent details about an event that actually happened to someone else and then insert yourself into the story, just to make the experience more compelling to viewers? Does that make your story a lie? What about that favorite uncle who embellishes family tales. Is he to be trusted?
People are quick to judge and dismiss liars. They enjoy hearing the uncle embellish, but they will condemn the newscaster for delivering as news anything but the facts, even if the creative version of the story is more enlightening and opens the imagination to the truthful foundation of a story. There are red lines, and there are moveable red lines. We will accept embellishment from some, but not from others.
Forget about embellishments — what about omissions? Does leaving out part of the story make you a liar? Perhaps it depends on who you are and what you’re leaving out. Let’s say you’re a mom, and you present one face to your family, but there’s a secret part of you who knows that expression they see is nothing more than muscle memory. Are you a liar? Are you a reliable source? Are you who they think you are?
According to Stephen King, “Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.” People generally think “web of lies,” or “web of confusion,” but King’s quote flips the expectation — enemies speak the truth, friends and lovers lie because they are “caught in a web of duty.” The word duty is defined both as a “moral or legal obligation, responsibility” and as a “task one must perform.” To be caught in a web of duty, then, implies a sort of imprisonment, a sense of being trapped by obligation, responsibility or an endless task. I certainly don’t like to think of my friends and family in those terms, do you? After all, we choose our friends, and they choose us. We love our family, and they love us. We are, though, duty-bound to those we love.
A conversation from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s children’s story The Little Prince resonates with this theme. When the little prince seeks to tame a fox he has found in a wheat field, the fox tells him, “If you tame me, then we shall need each other…People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” This is true of the fox that sits in a wheat field, waiting, day after day, for his little prince to return. It is also true, I believe, of close friends, lovers, husbands and children. When we are responsible for someone, we are duty-bound and obligated. We are only free to choose what we have, so we affirm the choices we have already made, loudly, with conviction.
I ask: Is telling the truth always a good thing?
Legendary choreographer and dancer Martha Graham said, “The body never lies,” but I know for a fact that statement is false. Bodies lie all the time. Bodies will tell you you’re hungry, even when you’re not. They’ll convince you to make love to the wrong mate. A menopausal body will tell you it is hot when it just isn’t.
My friend Andrew died of insulin shock two weeks before what would have been his 21st birthday because of a lie his body told him. This happened to be six weeks after I had given birth to my first child, who arrived two weeks late via emergency C-section because my body had pulled the wool over my OBGYN’s eyes, apparently. It was also eight weeks after I missed my father’s memorial service in Texas and nine weeks after he had lost his battle with bipolar disorder and shot himself in the head, even though he and his body had convinced his doctor and his family he was okay. His doctor said he’d seen “no signs of suicidal ideation or depression” at his last visit. His instincts had been wrong. My father wasn’t fooled, though. Two weeks prior to killing himself, he’d called me to tell me he’d been “feeling down.” With only my own experience to reference, I suggested he might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder — SAD — and things would be better in the Spring, when his first grandson would arrive and he could take the Bass boat out on the lake to fish. He said that wasn’t it, and he was right. He told me he hoped I’d get everything I wanted, and I pretended not to know that this would be the last time I heard his voice.
I ask: Is telling the truth always a good thing?
When you lose a parent, there is the initial grief, and then there is a weird sense of relief that the worst has already happened. Nothing could be worse than this. You don’t have to worry anymore. It’s over. But one should never say the words, “It can’t get any worse” out loud. The beginning of 2001 was truly awful. But it turned out to be mere foreshadowing.
Because I was so close to my due date when my father died, I wasn’t allowed to fly and missed my father’s memorial. So it was very important to me not to miss my friend Andrew’s life “celebration” in New York. (Cabaret performers never mourn the death of one of their own — they celebrate the life with songs and cheeky, tearful tributes). Aside from a weigh-in visit to the pediatrician and a trip to the breast-feeding specialist (never could quite get the hang of it and gave up after the weigh-in, which indicated my son was starving in his attempts to pull nourishment from my swollen, hard, useless breasts), I had not left our tiny new cottage by the Sandy Hook Bay since giving birth to my son. The thought of leaving my baby with my husband for the several hours it would take to travel by ferry into Manhattan, attend the memorial and return home was enough to put me into full panic mode, suffering as I was (I later found out) from PTSD. Still, I donned some stretchy black pants and a loose-fitting Chico’s “Traveler” top, put makeup on my face for the first time in a year and kissed my son goodbye before repeating the hundred or so instructions I thought my husband would need to keep my baby alive while I was gone.
My infant son had already survived near-starvation and being dropped on his head his first night home, when, heavily drugged with pain medication, I had fallen asleep breast-feeding him and awakened in the middle of the night to the strange sight of my Old English Sheepdog sniffing a tiny blue bundle on the plush carpet beside the sofa. It had taken a thick moment of mentally sifting through my new reality to recall the bundle’s importance, and when I realized what had happened, rather than call to my husband, who was peacefully snoring upstairs in the bedroom, I picked up my baby, shushed his startled cries with kisses, then placed him into his infant car seat for safe-keeping before falling back into my narcotic stupor until early the next morning. I awakened to the sound of my husband making coffee in the kitchen.
“How’s my baby boy?” he asked, leaning over the car seat to kiss our sleeping son’s forehead.
“Okay, I guess,” I answered. “I only dropped him on his head once.”
Nonplussed, my ever-steady husband chuckled. “Well, he’s still breathing, so I guess he’s okay.”
I will blame my non-alarm on the medication. I have no idea what my husband’s excuse was for not rushing our child to the ER to make sure he hadn’t suffered a concussion or worse. Perhaps instead of pumping the necessary adrenaline through his system to indicate “Emergency!” his own body had told him a little fib and filled him with calming, “Happy Daddy” endorphins. Denial is a comforting falsehood and an effective self-preserving mechanism. He wasn’t worried.
Instead of the terror I should have experienced, what I felt was a sense of helplessness and stifled rage that I had been left alone to shoulder the sole burden of keeping this tiny living being alive. I was stitched from hip to hip across my belly and could hardly move without searing pain, even with the medications. And yet I was supposed to wake up every two hours through the night, hobble to the bassinet, lift my crying son and feed him until one or both of us fell asleep. I had already proven a miserable failure and no longer trusted my ability to nurture and protect my child. Leaving my son for several hours to go into the city, trusting that my husband would be able to care properly for him in my absence was scary because I’d recently learned that the Universe could be tricky and unpredictable. Or just plain mean.
Like everyone else at the memorial celebration, I sang a song for Andrew then spoke a few inadequate, awkward words. The song was “Knee Deep in a River” by Kathy Mattea — a fitting number about taking friends for granted until one day you realize they aren’t there anymore. I don’t remember what I said afterwards except that it ended with, “I just hope my son turns out to be half as cool as Andrew.” Paying respects to Andrew’s family after the service, I asked his mom — an ex-bar patron from my piano bar days in New York — for pointers on how she’d managed to raise such an incredibly cool kid.
He said his box car was right between the Asian contortionists and the elephants. What could be better than that? he laughed.
Andrew had been hanging out in the cabaret piano bars since he was a young boy, sipping colas and beating the tambourine whenever the singing servers (us) performed. He smacked, shook and did his own brand of rhythmic gymnastics with that tambourine until pretty soon we’d all forgotten how to sing without it. The nights he didn’t show up just felt wrong. I got to know him well when he was 16, sharing taxis or giving him rides home in my beat up Bronco on the nights his mom would get too sloshed and go home early, leaving him at the bar with his tambourine. He got kicked out of school for poor attendance when he was 17 and started playing piano for us after hours, when the club closed. We’d all stand around the baby grand with our sheet music, and he would take us through new songs, backing up our vocals with harmonies he’d come up with on the spot.
He was a snazzy dresser and wore Armani knock-off suits and ties. He chain-smoked and carried a Zippo lighter he’d whip out whenever someone reached for a cigarette or rolled a joint. He had impeccable manners and a sophisticated wit. He practiced Noel Coward droll and got really good at it. Nobody who didn’t already know could have suspected how young he was. He seemed like one of the adults. We respected him. We hung out with him.
When he was 18, he started subbing as the break pianist, playing for free at first, then for pay — $25 for a 15 minute set while the real pianist took a bathroom and food break. By the time he was 20, he was playing at other clubs in and around Restaurant Row, and we’d lost him to higher pay. Still, he’d come in after he’d played wherever and bang the tambourine, sing back up on the bar mike, and drink Jack and Cokes until closing time. None of us would serve him, since he was underage, but since his mom was a fixture at our bar and had no problem with his drinking, we didn’t stop him from discretely hopping over the bar and pouring himself a drink. When we’d finally get rid of the last protesting drunks in the room, pushing the airplane pilots, flight attendants and tourists out onto 46th Street with the usual, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” he’d move to the baby grand and play our songs for us, just like the old days.
I loved the kid. He took me to see Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden. He was the one to tell me when my 12 year on again/off again boyfriend was, once again, screwing around on me with the bimbo he’d eventually marry. Apparently, everyone had known for months, but Andrew was the one who had the guts to tell me the truth and break my heart for my own good. Two years later, he attended my wedding in Chestnut Hill — rented a hotel room, drove from the city, stayed for the reception and assured me I was marrying the right person. I took it as a good sign.
About a week before he died, he called to tell me how happy he was. He was working as the youngest keyboardist to ever travel with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He said his box car was right between the Asian contortionists and the elephants. What could be better than that? he laughed. Then he admitted to being lonely sometimes and to missing all of us — the cabaret crowd, sitting on the stoop in front of the club, sharing jokes, cigarettes, the last shift drink and a pink city sunrise. I told him me, too. He said he’d be in Philly soon and really wanted to come to our new house on the Jersey Shore and meet the baby. We made plans.
But when he got to Philly, he came down with a cold. His dad drove down from the city to come to the show that day. When it was over, he took Andrew to the pharmacy to get some cold medicine. He told him how proud he was of all that he’d accomplished, and he asked if Andrew would like to have dinner after the afternoon show. Andrew said he really wasn’t feeling up to it and just needed a nap. His dad kissed him and said he’d see him when the circus came to New York in a week.
When their keyboardist didn’t show up for the afternoon show, the conductor sent one of the clowns to Andrew’s boxcar. He was still in bed. He’d never woken up from his nap. Even though he’d had diabetes for years and knew the signs of insulin shock, his body had told him it was just the cold making him feel lousy. His body had lied.
I asked Andrew’s mom how she’d raised such a cool kid because I really wanted her to know how special her son had been to all of us at the club, and because I was about to raise my own son, winging it, having had little training in how to be a good parent. I asked because, in her grief, I wanted her to know that — in spite of being a drunk who left her kid in the bar — I admired whatever it was that she had done to produce such a fine, mature, funny, talented, kind, sophisticated, fun-loving, adventurous person.
Her answer seemed simple enough at the time.
“Never lie to your child,” she said. “No matter what’s going on, always be honest.”
Smart-ass George from the bar overheard my question and suggested perhaps I should just give her my son to raise, but I ignored him and thanked her for her advice, which I repeated to myself like a mantra: Never lie. Always be honest.
John F. Kennedy said, in a commencement address he delivered at Yale University in 1962, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” This is true of the family lie — the one that so many mothers (including me) are guilty of. As a mom, in fact, I am a habitual liar. Not just about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. — but about important things. Feelings. Fears. Dreams. Desires. Expectations. I pretend things are okay when they’re not. I smile when I’m trembling with fear or rage. I take prescription pills to stifle the upset, calm the frayed nerves and stop myself from yelling when I need so, so, so badly to yell. The truth shall set you free is the thing I am most afraid of.
The night my step-mother called to tell me about my father’s suicide, my husband and I were entertaining an overnight guest — Richie, an old friend from the bar who had driven my husband to his mother’s house near Altoona to help him clean it out prior to its sale. My mother-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s shortly after we got married and had degenerated to the point that she had to be hospitalized. My husband and Richie salvaged some of his boyhood memories and a full-sized mattress and box springs for our home. They had finished unloading the truck and were having a couple of beers, watching television and laughing about the old days.
My step-mother asked if I was sitting down. I knew the rest before she told me. I felt my heartbeat in my ears. I swooned. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down for the son still inside of me then I calmly asked her if she was all right. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, just that I didn’t cry. I used the Lamaze exercise I had learned in preparation for natural childbirth and took deep, slow breaths. I waited until my heart rate slowed down, then I launched my massive belly and the rest of me (I had gained 75 pounds) off of the bed, gripped the railing of our narrow staircase and was halfway down the steps before the scream came out, and I collapsed on the stairs with the words, “My dad shot himself in the head.”
My husband helped me back into bed, asked if I needed anything then went back downstairs to hang with Richie for the rest of the night. I could hear them talking and periodically laughing, just as if nothing had happened. After weeping for a few minutes, I decided my tears might not be good for the baby, and I used the Lamaze breathing exercises to calm myself. A part of me started hating my husband that night. Maybe because I could not bring myself to hate my father for what he had done.
Six weeks after my son was born, I was speaking on the telephone with my friend Laura, whose daughter was 6 months old, which made her an expert on child-rearing, in my opinion. I told her I was worried because my son had not smiled yet.
“Do you smile at him?” she asked.
I realized, with horror, that I had rocked him, fed him, changed him, dressed him, soothed him, cried with him, worried over him, but no — I had never smiled at him.
“Well, you might try that,” she laughed.
After that conversation, I plastered a big, fake smile on my face every time I looked at him. Pretty soon, he was mirroring it right back to me. To this day.
Always be honest, she had said.
My family lives in a large, crumbling farmhouse that we haven’t made a payment on in six years, since going through bankruptcy. My husband lost his book publishing job four years ago and now does temp work. We sleep in separate rooms. We refer to each other as “Mommy” and “Daddy” in front of the kids, as if those are our names, and we present ourselves to the world as a “normal” married couple with a big house in an affluent community. Most of the time, we don’t even think about the fact that we’re not normal. The elephant in the room is furniture, at this point. We would only notice him if he wasn’t there when we tried to sit down. That would be a shock. We’d fall. We have lived in the lie so long it has developed a sort of what fake news show host Stephen Colbert refers to as “truthiness.”
Like the tamed fox and his little prince, we sit at opposite corners of the wheat field, waiting.
On the subject of motherhood, author Jodi Picoult writes, in House Rules, “We’re always bluffing, pretending we know best, when most of the time we’re just praying we won’t screw up too badly.” George Carlin echoes this anxiety in Brain Droppings, saying, “If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.” Both of these statements are true about raising children and — in my case, at least — it’s the only reason I pretend to be a grown-up. I mean, honestly. Think of how much more fun it would be to just swing from the chandeliers with the kids.
I gripe and yell that they stay up too late or that their homework isn’t done because I figure that’s my job, but truth be told, if I wouldn’t be arrested for it, I’d just assume throw the kids into the car and take them to a cabaret or karaoke bar to sing and knock a few back. Or stay up late on a school night and play card games, eat popcorn, and listen to the soundtrack of a favorite musical. I hate having to be the responsible one. I miss being fun.
I set expectations for my children that I could never achieve. I tell my son not to drink so much soda and not to eat too much sugar, but I down about four liters of Diet Coke a day and would eat a pound of M&Ms if they were in the house. I fuss at him for cursing, but when I’m not around the kids, I curse like a sailor. I tell my daughter to make up her bed before school, but my bed stays unmade for weeks sometimes because there are just more important things to do in life. How can I expect them to be what I am not — what I never was capable of being? How can I expect them to care about things I never cared about? What right do I have to ask them to have their shit together if I never did? This may be the worst sort of lie because it implies that I believe there is an inherent importance in these habits they are so resistant to master. As though I am more capable, and their inabilities to rise to these manufactured standards are failures.
Hell. I smoke in the attic. My husband has dropped his pretense altogether and smokes in front of the kids now — always outside, never in the house, but within sight of them. He rolls his own cigarettes and leaves tobacco on the porch steps and the back patio. I grumble about this — his “filthy” habit — within earshot of the kids, the implication being that the “filthy” habit I’m grumbling about is cigarette smoking, when it’s actually the tobacco mess that pisses me off. My son, a teen, knows I smoke (though I never smoke in front of him), but he never mentions it. I’m pretty sure my daughter still doesn’t know. Or maybe she does, and she has just decided to let me hide it from her because she realizes it’s something to be embarrassed about. It’s a lie we share.
My daughter is nine and — except for the occasional sleepover at Nana’s house — had never spent a night away from home until she was diagnosed with and hospitalized for two weeks for bipolar disorder this fall. I think I must have known for years but was willing to just call it “ADHD” until she was sent home from school after her first day of 4th Grade and asked not to return without a note from her doctor saying she was “stable.” This blindness on my part — let’s call it another lie of omission — cost her dearly and forced us all to face painful truths about ourselves we’d been denying.
Just like lies, one truth often leads to another.
This was the first year my daughter did not write a letter to Santa. Instead, she wrote it to me and left it lying on the steps to my office. We did not sprinkle reindeer “food” (glitter and granola) on the lawn this year, didn’t leave out cookies and milk. We omitted Santa completely, without conversation. Poof. He no longer existed. I signed the packages, “Love, Mommy and Daddy,” even though my husband has never done the Christmas shopping and had no clue what was in each box — a truth no kid needs to know. The last tooth that came out (via the dentist, as it was a rotten baby tooth that threatened to infect her gum) did not go under my daughter’s pillow. She handed it to me in a plastic bag and asked if I thought it was “worth anything.”
Never lie to your kids. Always be honest.
My kids have never seen me drunk, have never had to pull me out of a bar and roll me into a taxi in the middle of the night the way Andrew did with his mother. Aside from the rare anniversary outing, my husband and I have not even been to a bar in 14 years. If I drink, which is rare these days, it’s after they’ve gone to bed, and I drink wine until I pass out. They will never see this. Mostly, though, I’m immune to the angst that would put me there. The medication keeps me from flipping too far in either direction. It allows me to not feel the way I really feel; to feel the way I really don’t. Or not to feel at all, even when my face smiles or frowns, and my eyes crinkle or drip with tears, or my arms embrace, or my voice rises, or my words say, “I feel _____.”
It’s a lie.
What I should say, were I capable of telling the truth without emotionally maiming my brood is, “I think I should be feeling _____, but I only think it because I can no longer feel.”
I do remember the sensation of swelling warmth around the muscles of the heart, the tingling of expectation, euphoria of joy or well of pride. I remember the lump in my throat, fighting back tears when my feelings were hurt or one of my children was teased at school and came to me for comfort. I remember the manic, lightning bolt of unbridled anger or indignation, the sink of loneliness, even the electrical current and pang of love and passion — all of that. I remember feeling all of those things once, not just thinking them.
I have a friend whose mother was in a terrible car accident when she was a newlywed and pregnant with him. She was in a coma, and they thought she would die, but she recovered. The thing is she could only remember her life a few years before the accident. So she didn’t know who her husband was, and she didn’t remember being pregnant. My friend’s grandfather took the couple into his home while she was recovering. Her husband had to keep reminding her that she loved him and had married him. She thought he was very nice but did not feel any particular affection for this handsome stranger — only gratitude that he and his father were taking care of her as she grew larger with the child she didn’t remember conceiving. She refused to sleep in the same room with her husband. In her mind, she was still a teenager, and the whole pregnancy thing was crazy. She was a virgin.
What right do I have to ask them to have their shit together if I never did?
She had the baby (my friend) and cared for him minimally when reminded to do so, but she was incapable of loving him, her husband, or the old man caring for her. She looked beautiful and acted like her teenage self, but she never grew past 16. She got older but never matured.
She eventually healed and realized she could no longer live as someone else’s version of the truth, no matter how nice they had been to her or how grateful she was for their care. She divorced my friends’ father and soon after married someone else then moved across the country. My friend went back and forth between the two states and households, being raised alternately by his forever teenage mother and step-father (whom he hated, of course), and his beloved, perpetually grieving father and grandfather.
He’s married now and has two kids of his own. His family alternates, spending holidays with their Pennsylvania relatives or their “Granny” in Tucson or “Pappy” in Texas. One Thanksgiving Day a few years ago, his mother took him aside after dinner and said to him, “You know, you’re so nice, and your kids are really cute. I wish I could feel the love I’m supposed to feel for you as a mother, but I just don’t. I know I’m supposed to feel it, but I can’t. I wish I could.”
To these killing words, my friend replied, “That’s okay, Momma, I love you enough for both of us.”
I cried when he told me this. I said, “How could she say that to you?” And he said, “No. It’s okay. It made me love her more. She is who she is, and she gives what she can give. The fact that she’s acted as my mother all these years without having had the benefit of feeling love for me means that she gave me everything she could give me. That was a very loving thing for her to do.”
Never lie to your kids. Always be honest.
My sister-in-law in Chestnut Hill used to say this thing to her young daughters, when they would interrupt us “grown-ups” as we were sipping wine and chatting at one of the backyard barbeques she used to host, years ago. She’d laugh and say, “Go play in traffic, will you?”
I was horrified.
The other thing she used to say that I was sure would scar her girls for life was, “Because she’s my favorite daughter,” whenever one of the two would ask why the other got to do such and such and they didn’t. She was being funny, flippant, but I cringed inside.
Now the girls are grown. They’re both beautiful and successful at what they do, and they’re very close to their mom, in spite of having been told repeatedly to “go play in traffic.”
My mother used to tell me she was going to give me back to the Indians when she was annoyed with me. For a long time, I sort of believed her. My mom frequently returned things — clothing she’d bought and changed her mind about, shoes, husbands. I had no doubt I was equally disposable, should the mood hit her. The unlikelihood of having been dropped in a bundle on her doorstep in 1962 in Galena Park by a traveling tribe didn’t really occur to me until I was old enough to reason things through and realize my mom, who looked just like an older version of me, had come by me the old-fashioned way.
This truth caused me much more anxiety, and I tried very hard not to think about it.
In his book The Sun Watches the Sun, Dejan Stojanovic, the Serbian poet and philosopher, wrote, “A smiling lie is a whirlwind, easy to enter, but hard to escape.” In the context of friends and family, I suppose this sentiment is analogous to Stephen King’s idea of the “web of duty,” with a smile.
There are times when I want to grab my guitar and some notebooks, pens, and my laptop, hop in the ancient Winnebago, turn the key, and just take off for a few months, maybe travel back to Nashville to check on an old boyfriend. then head down to Florida to swim with the dolphins. After that, I could go see my sister and her kids in Texas, then mosey along to L.A. to hang with my old NYC roomie, who’s still single and posts Facebook photos of herself dressed in poodle skirts, doing the jitterbug with strangers — selfies that make it look like she’s always having more fun than I will ever have again. I’d drive up the coast and visit my brother in Portland then cut straight across the heartland — perhaps chase a few tornados. I don’t know.
Even writing about it makes me feel unbearably lonely and tired. That’s a lot of driving, and what golden childhood moments would I miss while I was gone?
Still, as I grin at my children like a hungry Cheshire cat, I have the fantasy.
I think about these things when I’m packing lunches and snacks and frying eggs, pouring cereal, yelling up the stairs for the kids to come down before they miss their bus again. Then they come downstairs in a frenzy, and I tell them to have a great day and that I love them. I zip their coats and chase them out the door with gloves they will not wear, even when it’s 12 degrees outside. I shove the gloves into their pockets as they run to catch the bus at the bottom of the icy driveway. Then I stand on the front porch and wave as the bus pulls away. My shoulders drop.
I sigh, Thank God.
Truth be damned. My kids can never know this.