Today I think I won the “Bad Mom” award.  Here is the evidence against me.

1.  We were in Trader Joe’s doing some last minute grocery shopping at 8 pm (when all good 5 year olds should be getting ready for bed no less)–late because I was late home from work due to meeting which went way too long and which I didn’t have the nerve after my long vacation to walk out of to make it home in time.

2.  Max was chomping on the cookies and grapes from the “free sample bar” because we had yet to eat dinner.

3.  Max bites down on a GRAPE and hears a loud splitting crack.  Sobbing and scared from the sudden pain, blood running down his little quivering chin.  “Mommy”, he wimpers choking on his tears. “I think I cracked my tooth”.  I stop to examine the situation.  His entire tooth, just a few minutes anchored firmly in his mouth is now loose and wobbly.  What’s more it is black near the root (perhaps from the blood?).    I am convinced that this is because I have not taken him to the dentist.  Ever.  I hate going to the dentist so much that even the thought of them makes me break into a cold sweat.  The little piece of paper with the list of good family dentists that our pediatrician gave me in DECEMBER has sat by the phone.  And I have lately let toothbrushing be a battle that I pick only once a day not twice.  Now my child has a broken tooth.  Its all my fault.

4.  I go to the dairy aisle and pick up the milk we came for instead of rushing him out of Trader Joes and to an emergency dental facility.  Do they have emergency dental facilities?  I am convinced that if I had only taken him to the dentist in the first place I would know EXACTLY what to do in this situation.

5.  We come home and drink Smoothies for dinner because he is afraid to chew on anything.  Not homemade fruit smooties but the prepared store bought kind that while organic are loaded with organic sugar.  The perfect elixer for a tooth problem?!? Everything soft I have has sugar in it.  Max refuses to eat soup.  I think if I wake the doctor on-call they will tell me I am a bad mother and that there is nothing they can do about it. 

6.  I can’t find the list of dentists–the one that I have stared at every day for six months.  I look up the pediatric dentist on-line and get so freaked out that I forget to write down the phone number.  I look it up again.  I let Max watch TV while I do this despite the fact it is WAY past his bedtime.  He falls asleep without brushing his teeth.

Stay tuned.  I will let you know if they take me away to mother jail in the morning or worse yet if they have had to yank out all my precious baby’s teeth.

Max and Holly in Adare, County Clare

Max and Holly in Adare, County Clare

This is Max’s new friend Holly.  We met her in Ireland.  They took one look at each other and were immediate fast friends–as though their whole short lives were leading up to this one moment.  She runs like the wind and throws balls really really high.  Like Max she can scale walls, poles, trees with ease and grace.  After he met her in County Clare, the first words out of his mouth each morning were :”Mommy–is she coming over today?”  He didn’t even have to say her name.  We both knew that SHE was Holly.

At the house on Woodcock Hill

At the house on Woodcock Hill

Holly speaks with a crisp British accent.  While I warned the hiking children by saying “Hey kids–look out for those prickly thingies” she passed the message down the line by saying “Mind the thistles now”.  The mischief in her huge twinkling blue eyes I had expected to see on fairies only.  No wonder Max loves her so.   

Together the two of them played hard for four days straight until her family had to return to their home in the south of England.   But when she left it was hard for me  to believe that I hadn’t known her her entire life. 

She and Max brought out the adventurer in each other.  They scaled walls, invented games, made art and explored.  Over castles and fields, restaurants and city streets they lived again and again fully and completely in each and every moment.  They suggested outlandish games and hid from the two year old.  They occasionally had to take to separate corners–but mostly they tumbled along in sheer wonder and bliss.

Watching the love affair between them unfold I was envious.  Such instant friendships do indeed seem the stuff of childhood.  We adults are more guarded.  We chat about nothing for awhile, circulating around each other suspiciously, asking questions that will tell us whether we can take a step closer.  We protect our wounded hearts carefully – don’t reveal too much–we know how easily it is to be hurt when we lead with a wide open heart.  We know how hard goodbyes can be and find ourselves censoring ourselves–not wanting to commit our real selves to things that won’t last.

Adare, County Clare

Adare, County Clare

But as I joined their gleeful romps, I found myself questioning that supposedly smart adult behavior.  I marveled at how two children who dared to live completely without fear of loss were able to experience such utter joy.  I found myself wanting to be like them.

Its amazing to me how as an adult I tend to look at new people through the lens of time:  How long have I known them–How long they will be around.  I warm up slowly, revealing little bits of my soul.  Carefully and slowly unfurling my dreams and thoughts when I know it is safe.  Its not been a bad strategy–I have made many wonderful friends this way.  But I wonder about the missed chances to connect–the people who were only around a few days or weeks–the people I never let down my guard for and who consequently I will never see again.  I wonder about the joy I might have missed while I was worried about protecting my wounded heart.

At the Cliffs

At the Cliffs

Because my wise young son dared lead with a wide open heart we now have new friends.  Holly and her family are coming to the US for a visit next year.  She and Max have planned to take a ride in Uncle Sean’s police car and go to Grandma’s house on the beach.  They will marvel at skyscrapers in NY and look for sea shells.  Perhaps it will end there.  Or maybe it will continue with subsequent visits to the UK.  In some ways what the future holds is not important–we have already gained so much from knowing them.

And me, I have decided to emulate the girl with the fairy-like eyes and the boy with green socks.  I have vowed to take chances with new folks.  To let my kookiness shine with strangers.  I still think I will protect pieces of myself from people who clearly don’t get me but I will channel Max and Holly when I find myself censoring for all the wrong reasons.  I will welcome each stranger with a wide open heart.

world according to Max and Holly

world according to Max and Holly

When I was a little girl my mom used to recite this little rhyme whenever we pulled into the driveway after a trip. 

“Home again, home again, jiggity jigg…Home again home again to roast a fat pig”.  I have no idea where it came from but to me it is the language of return.  I have been reciting it all morning.

Yesterday Max and I opened the door of our house and returned home after an amazing two week voyage across the Atlantic.  I had fully intended to post pictures and write from rural Ireland but the closest thing I found to wifi was a pair of digital walkie talkies that my brother had packed.  Amazingly the internet cafes in Ireland all close by 5 or 6pm and so I found myself frustratingly and blissfully unconnected…

The last two weeks were full of wonderful adventures and some fabulous experiences which I hope to write about now that I am home and settled. 

For two weeks my entire family (Mom, Dad, brother Sean, sister-in-law Jen, nephew Jack, and of course Maxidoodle and I) ambled through Southern and Western Ireland in a celebration of my parents 40th anniversary.  Over 40 years ago, they had come to Ireland on their honeymoon and wanted to celebrate the life they had built by taking their family back to the place where they had started it.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

And so we went.  All seven of us.  In two big cars we drove all around–making our way from Dublin in the East to Cratloe–a tiny village in County Clare where we had rented a house for the second week:  Max and I with mom and Dad.  Sean and his family in another.  Sean and I chattering away on the walkie talkies as though we 10–telling jokes or jointly navigating–pointing out scenes the other might have missed.  When we all drove smushed in one car, Sean would roll down the window everytime we saw cows so that we could all moo as loud as we could and try to make the cows look at us.  Such is a Casey family vacation. 

Max and Jack loved each fiercely and annoyed each other greatly.  It was a lovely reminder of my childhood.  I am glad that Max is developing the kind of relationship with his cousin that most people only experience with siblings.  The kind of relationship that Sean and I experienced. Of messy love and envy and joy.  Of invading each others space and drawing new boundaries over and over again.Of loving each other despite everything.  Of unending forgiveness. 

And along with all the giggling, the laughing so hard I cried, and the teaching of children, there was long stretches of nothing but the wind and the Irish countryside.  I found myself often speechless.  No inner monologue,  no outer dialogue–just breathing and observing and taking it all in.  Such long stretches of mindfulness was a miracle that defies description.

Max and Jack resting in Killarney

Max and Jack resting in Killarney

We all came on this trip looking for different things. Escape, connection, adventure, renewal, healing, a glimpse of something we had always wanted to see.  And like all journeys we came away with different and unexpected gifts:  humility, silence, peace, friendship, renewed sense of silliness.  Dad learned he can’t control everything–as much as he tries.  I learned that I can peacefully be with my family and that I won’t get lost or consumed by their strong world views which differ from mine.    Max learned that its not all about him. 

But now, we are back.  Happily back and settling into our routine.  There are clothes to be cleaned, work to be done, friends to catch up with.  So much happened in our little world while we were away.  But even as we joyfully dive back in, I know I will return time and time again to the peaceful and silly voyage we just took.  I know it will feed my soul.  I know that I will do things a little bit different because of what I learned on the wild Irish coasts or the person I discovered inside of me when there was no one to talk to but the wind.   

Cemetery on Inis Oirr

Cemetery on Inis Oirr