Captain Oblivious is my first born child and is now 22 years old. He was an unexpected pregnancy and awakened in me maternal feelings I didn't think I had. I was very career driven and independent when I found out I was pregnant with him, as I discussed in an earlier blog. His father and I married months before he was born and our marriage ended 5 years later after both of us exhausted ourselves in what I believe was an exercise in futility. Through all of it, I never regretted having my son. He made me who I am today, a mom.
When I met Frankenbutt, I was apprehensive about letting him get to know my kids and even more fearful of them becoming attached to him. As I got to know Frankenbutt, I could see that he would be a good father and that we shared similar views of parenting, mostly centered on common sense. He first met the Editor at a local diner quite by accident. Being as I can't cook (yes, I can make pancakes and spaghetti but one cannot live on that alone), it was likely we'd run into one another at the only diner in town. She stared him down in the way she has always handled strangers, being protective of me and uninterested in impressing anyone.
Frankenbutt introduced himself and then excused himself from the diner. He returned with a bag full of quarters that he evidently kept in his truck, dropping change into it at the end of his work day. He plopped the bag on the table and asked, "Do you like any of those video games in the lobby?" She said "Yes", looked in the bag, scooped some quarters out and excused herself. She walked to the glass front lobby where I could see her from my booth and used her full body weight (all 40 or so lbs of it) to open the heavy glass door into the lobby. Frankenbutt smiled and settled in for a bite to eat with me. The Editor was hooked.
One evening, we decided that all of us should have dinner together and Frankenbutt had a good idea. He suggested that Captain Oblivious be allowed to help him cook dinner. I had mentioned previously that my son was not a good eater. It was an uphill battle to get him to eat vegetables and he only liked chicken nuggets, pizza and cereal. Frankenbutt had a plan and I was worried. So was Captain Oblivious when we told him that he'd be helping to cook dinner.
As soon as Frankenbutt told him that he'd be in charge of choosing the ingredients for our spaghetti sauce, he seemed to light up. He was 7 years old and had never cooked, unless Pop Tarts count. The two of them went through the bags of groceries Frankenbutt brought over and there was conspiratorial whispering and giggles. I relaxed and went about my non-cooking tasks; the Editor and I joined them at the table when they yelled: "dinner's ready".
We all sat down to dinner and Captain Oblivious was beaming and so was Frankenbutt. The Editor looked unsure once she heard her brother had prepared most of the meal. She didn't hesitate to eat because she has an appetite much like my own. We all enjoyed the meal and felt relaxed and warm and like a family. Towards the end of the meal, the Editor recalled something her dad said over the past weekend. With mention of his dad, both Frankenbutt and I noticed that Captain Oblivious' demeanor changed. We witnessed this same kind of scenario many times over the next few months and concluded that Captain Oblivious felt guilty for enjoying Frankenbutt's company. It seemed that he felt he was betraying his own dad if he let himself care about Frankenbutt.
I tried to talk with Captain Oblivious about his feelings but he just looked uncomfortable and seemed unwilling to deal with the divorce. When I told him that Frankenbutt and I were getting married, he said, "I guess you and Dad aren't getting back together, huh?” I was surprised to hear that he thought that was even remotely possible but I learned that kids of divorce often hope their family life will return to what it once was. I was already struggling with my own guilt about breaking up my family but I knew that at least I was marrying someone who was good for all of us and especially me; that I was a better person together with Frankenbutt than I'd ever been.
On our honeymoon, I taught Frankenbutt to ski. He has an amazingly short learning curve and soon after he taught Captain Oblivious and the Editor the basics and we also enrolled them in ski school. About 18 months later, the Beast was born and she too learned to ski, starting at 2 1/2 years old. Captain Oblivious showed natural talent and often joined Frankenbutt on big black diamond runs while the Editor and I preferred long meandering intermediate level runs where we could talk and ski at the same time. After a fun day on the slopes, I often caught the same sudden change in demeanor. Captain Oblivious would go from talkative and laughing to suddenly quiet.
As a mother (and a woman), I worried about this but also assured myself that he was growing up ok. He did well in school, forgetting assignments occasionally but showing real intelligence in his essays and tests. He took drum lessons weekly, played Dungeons & Dragons with friends and read a lot of books. When the Beast started BMX at 4 years old, she begged her sister and brother to try it, too. Both were reluctant but Frankenbutt and I couldn't wait to find another family sport for all of us to do together. We bought BMX bikes for both the Editor and Captain Oblivious.
We loaded up our bike rack and bike gear each practice night and for Sunday morning racing and together we all went to our local track. Captain Oblivious and the Editor often read books while riding in the car, as did the Beast once she learned the basics. Frankenbutt was eager to teach the kids some racing tips and often found only the Editor and the Beast listening. Captain Oblivious continued to read his book sitting on the ground near our car or under a shade tree. This continued on race nights and we often found him missing his moto because he was wrapped up in the story in his hands and not at all concerned with BMX.
It was obvious to us that BMX was a great sport but not the choice for every member of our family. Captain Oblivious soon found excuses not to go to the track and we accepted that. He gave it an honest effort and found it wasn’t for him. He often chose to visit with his friend, Steve, a fellow aspiring artist, while we got sweaty and dirty at which ever track was open and nearby.
Captain Oblivious is 22 now and lives in Jersey, with his dad, where he’s attending Rowan University. He is studying to be an art teacher and is actively involved in the Art Educators Society at his school. He is now the president of his chapter and recently proposed an affordable summer art education program for local elementary and middle school age students. The members of his Art Educators group readily signed up to teach and assist with the art lessons; the college agreed to provide the space; local art supply stores agreed to major discounts on the supplies. I love his win-win-win plan (not to be confused with Charlie Sheen’s “winning”) in which the college reaches future student prospects, the community gets an affordable summer program, the college art students get a great item to add to their resumes and future art educators get the opportunity to “try on” their careers.
I am very proud of him and have faith that his project will go well. It may be surprising to know that I don’t want it to go perfectly. Some of my most valuable life lessons came from things not going as planned; from that, I learned to predict issues and plan for the unexpected. While he’s still in college, I hope he also gets the opportunity to learn how to deal with the crises that inevitably arise in most “first time” projects. It’ll prepare him well for his career as an art teacher.
Captain Oblivious gave me a "first time project" of motherhoood and I know there were parenting crises I could have handled better. I learned a lot from my each of my children and I hope they, too, learn a lot from their children.
Although Frankenbutt and I have researched, explored, brainstormed, and planned for the ride ahead … there are bound to be crises in this “first time” project for us, too. I hope we address each with the wisdom life has given us. If nothing else, I hope it makes some “blog worthy” experiences that make us laugh later. Hopefully you’ll see a tall blonde man with us at the Memorial Classic in Pottstown, where we hope to reunite with our family once we get close enough to south Jersey.