Category Archives: On being a mom

The Dorm Room Fantasy

This spring I received a catalog in the mail called Pottery Barn Dorm. I’ve never received this catalog before, but I assume that Mark Zuckerberg told them that I have a child starting college this fall, so I wasn’t so surprised. What surprised me as I flipped through the glossy pages is that you don’t need to have a college education to work at Pottery Barn. Or at least it seems like no one who works there has ever been inside a college dorm room.

Their photo imaginings of this college environment include paneled walls flanking floor to ceiling windows. The velvet clad bed is at least a double, with a mattress that’s about 11 inches thick. There’s room on both sides for a bedside table and a special floating shelf. The shelf really pops out as necessary, because where else would you keep your vibrantly thriving fern?

A chandelier graces the ceiling. Now as I recall, we weren’t allowed to put a single nail in the wall in our dorm room. We were allowed to use two-sided tape as long as any remaining adhesive was washed clean from the walls at move out. I’m pretty sure if a hot plate was forbidden under the penalty of expulsion, they probably don’t want the kids installing their own chandeliers.

These images if college life are certainly aspirational for students, but they’re aspirational for parents as well. There’s a whisper in the back of our minds as we flip through the pages – maybe my kid will wake up drenched in sunlight. Maybe my kid will start making his bed. Maybe my kid will thrive so much in college that in addition to taking care of himself impeccably, he’ll also be able to tend to the needs of a fern.

In one image, an entire wall of the dorm is painted in chalkboard paint. The catalog designers have written E=MC2 on the wall. Maybe my kid’s going to learn something! I imagine the Pottery Barn meeting: “Write something sciency on that wall, the parents will love it. Anyone know any science stuff?” Which is how they got the only equation sciency people would never actually have to write down.

They really want me to pony up for furniture. Previously, I’d been relieved to know that furniture was the one thing that was included in the sticker price for college. The entire internet is pushing the upholstered headboard with an optional monogram. Well, they say it’s optional but sometimes kids get confused late at night, so it’s good to have the bed clearly labeled. Then there are a variety of small sofas to choose from. And round chairs for reading, one of which suspends from the ceiling like a swing. Add “stud finder and contractor” to your list of college essentials.

Imagine my disappointment when I took my son shopping at the ever-practical Bed Bath and Beyond. We picked out hangers, Command strips and sheets. He focused briefly when confronted with a variety of duvets with different weights. When we hit the assortment of duvet covers, the Pottery Barn mom in me got a little excited. Here was his chance to express himself and really make that room pop(!) The choice of floral, plaid, damask or solid would define his college experience. I asked him which one he liked best, and with no sarcasm in his voice, he asked me, “Why would it matter?” We chose grey.

Motel 55

I’m running a one star hotel. I’m not worried about improving my rating, as it’s peak season and all of the rooms are full. There aren’t a lot of other options for my guests at this time of year, so the myriad complaints to management about the quality of service go largely ignored. Breakfast is… Continue Reading

Dog Park Rookie

When I got a dog I was excited to start going to the dog park. I thought it might be just like going to the playground with little kids, standing around shooting the breeze with other parents. In fact it’s been so long since I’ve lingered at a playground that I thought the dog park… Continue Reading

If You’ve Got Five Kids, You’ve Got A Lot of Teeth

“That’s just so many teeth,” I said to the confused mother of five seated across from me at lunch. It was a weird follow up to the pretty standard suburban question: “how many kids do you have?” Depending on your point of view, there are plenty of more appropriate reactions, including “how wonderful” and “so… Continue Reading

The Upside of Scarcity

Many years ago, my son received a Thomas the Tank Engine train and a circle of tracks as a gift. He was two years old and could zoom Thomas around that track for hours, frontwards, backwards, crashing into imaginary obstacles. He loved it so much that I bought Thomas a buddy, his faithful passenger coach… Continue Reading

Sports Niceties in Real Life

Spring sports are winding down and the whole thing seems like a blur of driving, costume changes and sandwiches eaten in the car. There was the requisite amount of elbow jabbing, name calling and blood letting. But there were also the niceties of sports, the repeated rituals, words and actions that sort of smooth out… Continue Reading

The Homecoming

I wander around my unusually clean kitchen, killing time before I get to pick up my son from the airport. He has just finished his freshman year in college, and something that feels like relief floods my nervous system. I haven’t seen him in two months, so I try to imagine what he’s going to… Continue Reading

Is Anyone Else Tired?

Remember when that new, zealous guy started work at your office? The one who thought it would be more productive to come in a few minutes earlier and stay a few minutes later? Next thing you knew, your nine-to-five job was eight-to-six, for the same pay. I wonder if this is what’s happened to motherhood.… Continue Reading

Macabre Tales of My Mandoline

Fifteen years ago my mother-in-law gave me a mandoline for my birthday. When I try to talk to my friends about the mandoline, they think I’m referring to an instrument in the lute family, which actually might have been a better gift for me. This device is the culinary kind. The box says it’s supposed… Continue Reading

Notes for Next Christmas

I have a friend who has a very thoughtful way of living her life, and I try to pick up her habits when I can. She recently told me that every year after Christmas she takes a few minutes to jot down what worked and what didn’t, so that she doesn’t make the same mistakes… Continue Reading

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