Blogger: Dee-Dee Kanhai – “The Spice of Suburbia”
I made it this far. I survived 17.5 years of parenting a child earthside. If you are a regular, you know Chloe Chanel, my daughter. I was blessed with a healthy, smart kid, and she is a beauty. Of course, as her mother I am biased. When I watch her from afar, I admire her. She commands a room. The little explorer inside of her isn’t scared of the things that frightened me at her age, like traveling and meeting new people.
I could go on about the way she amazes me, like how she goes to bed by 9pm on school nights, literally putting her phone on DO NOT DISTURB because she knows she needs her rest. I laugh that she has a skincare routine at 17, which I didn’t even consider until my late-twenties. She wears her retainer without me asking and reminds me when she needs a cleaning at the dentist (before the card arrives in the mail).
Then, despite the 6am alarm going off on Monday to Friday, along with the uninviting cold weather, she gets up and somehow looks camera ready when she heads out the door. Her joy this year has been her Broadcast Journalism class. She takes her job reporting Current Events on the morning announcements very seriously. Growing up, her passion was always playing sports, but now she has this interest in journalism. It is so nice to see how invested she is in this program.
It is hard to process all of this “Senior Year” stuff without feeling betrayed by time. It seems like just yesterday I was holding her in my arms wondering if I could do this “mom thing”, and now, just like that – she is about to be 18. Sometimes I get into a funk about it, but then I am reminded of two great moms, and friends that sadly will not see their girls graduate with Chloe this June. The tragic reality of that one thought forces me to put things into perspective. No matter how hard this gets for me, it will never compare, so we will celebrate for ALL of my girls.
Truth be told, we only ever wanted one child. We thought we had it all figured out. We’d laugh and say “one and done”, thinking we were so smart in planning our lives out like this. With only one child, we could always put her first. We never had to consider, “if we do this for you, then we have to do for your siblings”, it just seemed so practical to have one child. This way we would never miss a practice, a game or a school concert. We would always outnumber her and there was always someone around for her. Did it ever occur to me that there’d be too much of us for her? No! I assumed she loved it as much as we did.
You know the term helicopter parents? Hi, WE are Dee-Dee and Jerome. You couldn’t miss us. We were everywhere she was.
Conventional parenting was just not our thing. She liked to sleep in our bed, no problem. We’d be hanging off the bed, barely sleeping, but the princess was comfortable, and that was all we wanted in life, was for her to be happy and feel loved. “Just let her be a kid”, words I would say to myself all the time. A pressure free, chore-free, responsibility-free life! We let her walk barefoot to feel the earth. Play in the rain until she was soaked. If she saw a puddle of mud, we’d encourage her to jump right on into it! She led and we followed. I know, sounds totally healthy, right?
As an only child, she got away with a lot. I thought it was cute, but I am sure an outsider would say it was a bit obnoxious. For about three years, we would drive an hour each way to a daycare that was in the mountains of Ringwood JUST so she could get fresh air, see wild animals and hike on nature trails. She was 3. During the summer she went to a camp that had all day outdoor activities. She’d go swimming, canoeing, and fishing. She went horseback riding and on field trips once a week. I am quite sure she would have had just as much fun (or more) if she went to the town recreation camp with her schoolmates, but I just thought these were the things she needed.
Trust me, I see there are fully functioning humans that spent summers home, playing in the street with their friends and it didn’t cost a penny to their parents. No extra commutes, stress or financial burdens. I just assumed we had to give her the best of everything. I didn’t realize that sometimes the best things in life are FREE until I invested a mini-fortune into ridiculous daycares and summer camps. You live and learn.
We moved to a town with a great public school, thankfully our money would go to the school she attended and we’d see a return on our investment if we played our cards right! As a student, we never micro-managed her education. We keep informed without being over-aggressive. As she got older, she progressively began to take school more seriously. Her grades improved and now in her senior year of High School, she has a full day of classes despite only really needing 3 classes to graduate.
As far as her behavior, I’d be lying if I said it’s all rainbows and butterflies. We had moments of greatness and then… the other moments. Like, the day I got a call from the school because she passed a note during class. I had never dealt with this, and I wasn’t sure HOW to handle it. I left work early, picked her up curbside. I never picked her up, so she knew it was coming. With a smile on my face, I got out of my car, walked around to her. I politely asked for her brand new iPhone. There, in front of all her friends, the crossing guards and other parents I walked to the front of my car. Without a second thought, I gently placed the phone under my front tire. I got back into the car, put it in drive and proceeded to roll over it. I put it in reverse and made sure I got it good. Then, with everyone watching, I went from drive to reverse three or four more times – for good measure. I got out, handed it back to her with a smile and drove back to work.
Was that normal? Probably not. But, I knew I had to show her I was the BOSS.
I believe we instilled a healthy sense of fear in her that day. I knew my best quality was my unpredictability. She was so used to being dealt with in a very delicate, loving way – that when I snapped and raised my voice, I scared myself AND HER.
Of course, my husband let me do most of the disciplining. He only came in when absolutely necessary. He couldn’t understand my logic, “WE PAID FOR THE PHONE, WHO WERE WE HURTING BY BREAKING IT?” he said. But I knew, I couldn’t stick to a punishment, so I had to destroy the phone in order to make sure I didn’t cave in an hour.
I had a coworker who had 7 kids, I’d always say “how can you possibly share your time with all of them equally” or I would tease and ask “rank them in the order you love them”, and he’d tell me to “SHUT THE HELL UP”. But, one day we had a real conversation about it, because he could tell I really didn’t get how a family with so many kids worked.
“You don’t run out of love when you have more kids,” he said, “you just find more love you didn’t realize you had left to give”. I was perplexed. “Your tank never hits empty?”
It took some time to make sense of this, in my mind, I figured it worked in an entirely different way.
Example: You have a pitcher full of LOVE… Every kid has a glass and you pour the love evenly among all the kids. You line up the glasses to make sure nobody gets too much or too little. Now, let’s say another kid comes along… AND YOUR PITCHER IS EMPTY! You round up all the cups, and skim a little off the top from each. The new one gets LOVE and the rest sacrifice a little to make it happen.
That makes total sense to me…
Apparently, that is NOT how it works.
I just know in my mind, having ONE CHILD meant MY PITCHER IS FULL and her cup runneth over, right?
So, here we are… She is almost a full adult and she can get her cup all filled up from other sources besides us: friends, family, school, work, hobbies, exercise and passion projects.
So now what do I do with my pitcher of LOVE?
Which brings me to these magical words from an older and wiser friend… “Dee-Dee, it is unhealthy to obsess over a child so much”. Her advice: “have some more kids… If not, put that energy into your marriage, girl.”
OBSESS? Aren’t ALL parents as OBNOXIOUS as ME?
“You and your husband need to build a strong foundation. Chloe can’t be the bricks AND the mortar…” she went on… “One day, whether you like to admit it or not, she will leave the nest and how will your home stand without a strong foundation?”
Wait. WHAT? Leave the nest? I couldn’t imagine a world where my little Chloe wouldn’t be right under MY wing. Alas, here we are… She was right. This ingrate is trying to leave for college!
I think about this woman often, it felt so “preachy” when she said it to me 13 years ago… Now it just makes sense.
A marriage is a union meant to withstand “until death do us part”. Not parenting…Mom and Dad are forever but PARENTING, the actual ACT of it… that comes to an end when they no longer require our full-on attention and guidance.
I wonder how my husband feels. He acts collected about the whole thing but, he has GOT to be a mess. They have this bond that is a cross between “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Nightmare Next Door”. One minute they’ll be laughing, the next minute doors are slamming. I have never witnessed such love and anger between two people. Remember when Michelle Obama said “when they go low, we go high”, well the motto between them is “how low can you go”. It’s funny, but it isn’t (I’d cry if I was in the war of words with them.). I cannot imagine a day going by without them bickering, never mind a week or a month!
Just a few days ago I told my sister that I thought they’d never speak again. She laughed at me, this wasn’t the first time I have said that. Sure enough, a few hours later, I hear them joking on each other. She was right. It never is the end of the world, it’s just how they love.
What will he do without her physically in the house? WHO will he argue with? PLEASE NOT ME!
Listen, he is not known for being the most rational. We are talking about a man who would get upset when Chloe came home on Valentine’s Day with her shoebox full of little tiny cards. Once, among the sea of Valentine’s, was a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Taped to the box was a little card that read: “I Love You Chloe” adorned with a drawing of a curly-haired stick figure and a tall stick boy holding her hand. I thought it was precious, he DID NOT.
That evening after dinner he went missing for a few hours. When he walked through the door, he was carrying a PINK BICYCLE without training wheels. It had pom-poms and a little horn. He bought the matching helmet, knee-pads, elbow pads and in the basket was big stuffed bear holding a heart. This was his way to “one-up” the stick figure boy with the box of chocolates. This mess has carried on every Valentine’s Day since she was 5 years old.
To this day, Chloe gets more excited for Valentine’s Day than any other holiday. This Daddy/Daughter Valentine’s Trend got bigger with every passing year. He’s filled her room with dozens of balloons while she was at school, there’s been jewelry, bouquets of overpriced flowers and dinners. This past Valentine’s Day when the doorbell rang on February 14th, I didn’t bother getting up, I just yelled for Chloe. 2 Dozen Chocolate Covered Strawberries were delivered and a card with a crisp Benjamin was waiting on her dresser. Daddy/Daughter dances weren’t a thing when she was growing up so, he created this monster. I love that on Valentine’s Day the only person she is waiting on is her dad. (He will never let her down!)
We have all lived under the same roof for almost 20 years! She is an important part of this “Kanhai Machine”.
I live a very quiet and secluded life: hammock, meditation, wind chimes. He is very busy: loud music, talking on the phone, always on the go. Yin and Yang. She was the perfect combination of us. Kept us grounded and young.
So here we are, every day is a new rush of emotions. Every Acceptance Letter is an overwhelming sense of PRIDE and of course… a little bit of a blow. We aren’t sure exactly where she will end up, school decisions are still up in the air, but we are preparing for her being a flight away and we will either pack up to follow her or SOMEHOW manage to create a whole new version of US while she is at school – which is probably the more sensible choice!
Chloe, if you are reading this, I am sorry if we didn’t get this parenting thing just right. We did the very best with what we had, and you made it seem so easy and fun. We will support your decisions and allow YOU to make the best decision for YOU. I will take care of Dad, I promise. I will even yell at him once in a while so he doesn’t get too bored. Finally, I won’t be turning your bedroom into my Etsy Studio, despite teasing you that is my master plan. NOR will I turn it into a GIANT playroom for the dog, although he does deserve it. Your room will remain exactly how you like it and it will be waiting for you to come home for some of mom’s food, some love or just to get a good night sleep in your own bed.
As for US, me and Jerome, for the first time ever, we will be husband and wife, not just mom and dad. Am I ready? I don’t know. I guess we will find out the hard way, like we did everything else up to this point. Of course, I expect to bring you all along for the journey of what is next for the Kanhai Family. But, #KeepingUpWithTheKanhais is a FULL-TIME gig, so brace yourself!
College decisions coming soon! Happy March Daily Feelers!
Dee-Dee Kanhai, aka “The Spice of Suburbia”, was a big city girl for 25 years who was transplanted to the Suburbs of Northern New Jersey. This relocation led to her “undoing” and with that, the discovery of her true self. Besides being a wife and mother to a teenage daughter and toy Chihuahua, Dee-Dee works in finance and owns a small Etsy Shop @LoveTheUndoing, where she sells heart-made jewelry, crystals, and other whimsical crafts. Dee-Dee is a student of life, teacher of meditation, practicing yogi and a mystical moon child.