Dear Little: Packing

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Dear Little,

We are going to Maine for a two-night stay, just you and me.

You packed as if we were leaving 19th century England on a 10-month journey by boat.

Dog named Captain sitting next to a LOT of luggage.

Captain Love is 45 pounds. That is the pile of luggage, toys, books, etc. that an only child is accustomed to taking for any length stay.

We couldn’t finish a typical length Marvel movie in the time it would take us to get there, approximately 3-and-a-half hours. You’d make a great Scout, always prepared.

Though, always prepared for Pokemon battle, glittering things, impromptu doll-dress up, ballet-lesson, reading, more reading, and a re-enactment of the dinosaurs last day on Earth.

Less prepared for changing underwear (had to sneak more into the bag) and Maine weather in June (needed a hoodie, a tank top and pants). Otherwise, TOTALLY prepared.

Love,

Mama

Dear Little: Sick Day

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Girlie,

It’s your last week of first grade. Thursday is a half day.

So, naturally, you fall ill on Monday morning with a fever (strep negative, thanks Dr. Lock, and thanks to Dad for teaching me to go to the doctor when your kid is sick…)

You threw up in your bed last night. No, this post isn’t to document your illness, but to highlight how miserable you were.

This morning, your fever was even higher, which is awful. You were able to squeak out how your throat felt like someone cut it into a million pieces and left it in your neck. That was sufficiently descriptive.

So, we decided you’d blow a whistle if you needed me while I worked from home today. Since we didn’t have a whistle, but your daddy is a musician, we improvised.

Image result for ocarina

You decided to have pre-written notes, like:

Hungry.

Thirsty.

Yes.

No.

Can I Watch TV?

Can I Play A Video Game?

With your marker, you wrote one more thing to communicate without your voice working.

sick day

This almost makes up for finding out you have been making out with a boy in your class behind the playground structures at recess.

Lick On The Tongue

 

So, sorry in advance Kiddo, but I OBVIOUSLY had to tell Auntie Lindz, who, even after explaining it’s a Pokemon “Lickytongue” thing, …

Image result for lickitongue pokemon

 

Was, totally all about #HelpingNotHelping…

First Kiss, Probably.

I think it counts.

I love you, too, kiddo.

Sorry to Future You when you see this and realize I put this on the Internet. And, sorry to your friend, who will absolutely be sick during the first week of summer vacation.

Get better.

-Mama

Dear Little: Spelling

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Dear Little:

I’m just putting this here, so I can look back and chuckle in a decade.

You, writing a letter to your friend Ivy: “Mom? How to do you spell E?”

Me: “E?”

You: “Yes. How do you spell E?”

Me: “Um…E.”

You: “How do you spell chother?”

Me: ….

You: “You know? Like, chother?”

Me: “I’m not sure. Can you use it in a sentence?”

You: “Yes. Here is what I would like to write – Dear Ivy, I can’t wait to see e chother again.”

Me: “OH! Each, other.”

You: “No, Mom. E Chother. I just need to know how to spell it.”

Love,

-Mom

Dear Little: Bone Rat

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Dear Little,

Without commentary, here you are nuzzling into bed with Puppy and The Death of Rats.

Ahem. MY Death of Rats toy. Complete with a black hood, a scythe, and all the things an embodiment of death would need to escort a soul to wherever souls go after they pass on.

(Because I’m an adult and adults can have toys, too).

(And when you read this as an adult, we’ll have a conversation about “phrasing,” no doubt.)

Sweet…dreams?

-Mom

 

 

Dear Little: Thank You, Too.

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Hey, Kiddo.

The part that struck me the most about Mother’s day this year was how excited you were. You were so amped up to give me presents, make cards, and even broke down into a two-hour cry-fest after your dad accidentally spilled the beans: You had big plans and were going to try to make me coffee as a surprise.

It was awesome to feel that level of excitement from you.

It reminded me of that giddy feeling I got when my siblings and I would go out to the garden, pick my mom a daffodil, make her breakfast (usually a bowl of cereal in a giant recycled Cool-Whip container with a cup of instant coffee). We’d make her cards, do our best for 20 minutes, and then spend the rest of the day fighting like feral hyenas. But, that was how the day is supposed to go.

It Is Written (somewhere). 

Thinking about that while enjoying the flowers you made out of paper, drinking coffee (dad helped!) out of a new mug in bed…It was the first time that I really finally felt like a good mom and could take it all in. There are moments, but that day was a really, really good day.

Here’s the thing, kiddo. You don’t know any different, but a friend of mine says, “Happy Complicated Feelings Day” and that’s pretty much how I view it, too.

See, the role models I have for parenting are a bunch of amazing, wonderful, strong, tolerant adults, who were not always my parents. They were usually the parents of other kids in my class, theater troop, biology professor, registrar at college, Fine Arts director, you get the idea. The years I could fully depend on my parents are few and far between. There are good years, bad years, good stretches, and silent, awkward stretches. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them. We are just a bunch of puzzle pieces thrown in a box, some pieces are missing. Sometimes you have to shove two pieces together in just that way to sort-of make it work for a short time. But that doesn’t actually solve the puzzle. It’s just a stop gap until the piece is picked up and moved somewhere else.

The road map I have for parenting has been written on, folded, refolded, cut and pasted from other maps, white-outed, stained with coffee, and unreadable in many places. It also hasn’t really been fully updated since 1996.

There are also a ton of McDonalds on the map and I’m a vegetarian.

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It’s not my parents I call when something is amiss. I call those people who did their best with a kid that wasn’t theirs, or friends who have been by my side since before I could drive a car who, oddly, had similar circumstances. I email them, get their sage advice when I need it. Or, I think about what they would have likely done in similar circumstances and it guides me like the North Star.

But that’s all I have – a star in 2019. I’m not Moana or Magellan. I can’t even get around in my city without Google Maps. And some days it’s very cloudy and it’s hard to see stars.

The way my parents dealt with conflict fell into two distinct categories, and this was not a continuum. They would either yell and scream, or completely ignore everything and pretend nothing happened. They still do. And that’s not me, that’s how I want to parent you.

That’s all to say most people struggle to be parents and there is a lot out there on how hard it is to be a parent. I have a hard time consistently being someone’s daughter, and that makes it really hard to raise one.

Unlearning that while trying to raise a little you is not easy, but I try my best. Doing this without a tether to the person this day is supposed to make me feel excited about celebrating makes days like Mother’s Day hella-complicated. It’s not you and your dad – it’s when you guys are gone. When you go to school the next day, and your dad goes to work, being alone in the house gives some wiggle room for the complexities to sink in, get their grip.

And this isn’t to throw my folks under the bus. Lots of people are in a similar boat. It’s actually quite relatable once you find others. Which is why my friend calls it “Happy Complicated Feelings Day.” Being someone’s daughter is, from my perspective, really hard.

But, being your mom is a gift. It’s the best.

Well, like, 95% of the time. The whole “not eating things that aren’t beige” thing is getting a little old, but 95% is pretty good 🙂

I have two flower daffodils made of paper cut-outs of your hands, straws, and scotch tape. There is also a card that says:

“To Mommy. Love Acey.”
This is, of course, completed with a hand-drawn heart.

When opened, it says “Thank You.”

When I asked you, “Thank you for what?”

“Everything.”

Good job, Kiddo.

IMG_20190514_140742506
Thank you, too.

-Mom

PS – I think I know what I want for my next spontaneous tattoo.

Dear Little: Baseball(ish)

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Dear Little –

We got you a baseball bat and a ball. Here’s how you described how baseball should be played.

“First, you have a bat, and your friend has a bat. Then you hit the ball to each other until someone drops it.”

I asked if you meant Tennis.

“No Mom. We have bats. It’s baseball.”

Nope. Nothing at all can go wrong with this scenario.  I’m picturing you and your friend Maddy batting line drives to each other and walking away with 7 fewer teeth after playing “Baseball.”

Love,

-Mom

Dear Little: When A Choice Isn’t A Choice

Hey, Kiddo.

A few weeks ago I had an abortion, and we made the decision to tell you all about it. Here’s why we told you at age 6, and here’s why I’m making the decision to put this here for you for later.

Going into the pregnancy, I felt OK, which was surprising given how sick I was carrying you from the jump. But, somewhere around week 8, I went from “I’m pregnant and feel OK” to full-blown sick. Thinking it was normal morning sickness, I carried onward. I was pretty sick with you – let’s face it, downright miserable as a pregnant person – but I was technically fine. Just sick but not in danger. Starting at week 9 of this pregnancy, I missed two consecutive weeks of work- my assistant covered the classes like a boss, but it was unfair to throw her into the deep end like that, and it was more unfair to the students going forward who signed up for 6 weeks of classes they wouldn’t get. That on its own? I wouldn’t have done it.

But then I rapidly lost 10 pounds I didn’t have to lose. My blood pressure was 74/40. My body was eating itself. I was stuck in a couch for two weeks and couldn’t make it to the kitchen without the feeling of inevitably passing out. Dark tunnels, light-headed, all of it. There was a great risk of passing out with you here… Or worse, with no one home.

It dawns on me that with cell phones, you might not know how to get into my phone to call 911, or might not be able to find my phone in case of an emergency. It’s not like when I was a kid and there was a 12″ magical device with a rotary dial connected to the wall, hanging in the same place, consistent place, with the cord wrapped up on itself from the years of twirling the cord we paced while talking for hours on end.

At week 10, dehydrated, miserable and disgustingly thin, I needed IV fluids which isn’t that unusual in pregnancy.  The unusual part was the IV was due to regurgitating water and Gatorade for two weeks. The doctors and nursing staff couldn’t keep anything in my system which was becoming quite problematic.

When it came time to medicate, things went from bad to worse. I threw up every anti-nausea medication the doctors threw at me. Because I’m an overachiever, I even threw up the medication that is designed to dissolve on the tongue so people can’t throw it up. Special, right? It was terrible and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. But when I couldn’t keep the smallest amount of water down for two days in a row and the dissolvable medication wasn’t working, it became quite clear that things were not just “uncomfortable”. I was in real, genuine danger.

The very worst part for me, even beyond all the sickness, vomiting, blood, all of it, was I  couldn’t play with you, read to you, color with you. I showed you how to use the remote control to turn on the television and that was it. I had a kid I couldn’t engage with, let alone take care of. That was the worst feeling of all of this.

People stopped on the street to ask if I was OK after yacking up what little I could get down in the median, like an overachieving Bostonian on St. Patrick’s Day in the college district – but instead of a typical Thursday night after the bars close, I was heaving at 2:00 in the afternoon, stone-cold sober, in front of the mailman. The dog was quite helpful in his drive to want to clean it up, but I stopped him.

Ew.

But here’s the thing, kiddo.

I’m not even sad.

Abortion doesn’t mean you have to be sad. Abortion doesn’t mean you have to be heartless, either. The choices laid out for me were such that I could continue with the pregnancy but likely go back and forth to the hospital for 7 months, being fed through an IV, missing you, not being present for your dad, missing work and letting down my students, not being able to walk our dog… Or, I could terminate the pregnancy and be there for you, the kid I already have. In a way I didn’t feel like there was a choice – but there was. I made the right one for us.

A very smart friend pointed out, “Your body was eating itself. You were dying.”

Do I wish it played out differently? Of course. But if given the same hand, I would do it again in an instant.

I was back on my feet after one week. There were side effects that were not disclosed – like the acne breakouts that brought me right back to being 14 years old, and pants (jeans specifically) were uncomfortable for months. Luckily, leggings were fashionable at the time, so I could be comfortable and go about my day.

More than the luck of a stretchy, forgiving wardrobe, I had an amazing support structure with friends, co-workers and family who I told from the jump because secrets don’t help anyone. And now I’m telling you. Again.

I’m telling you here so when you are older you can see what this was like at the time for me. We did tell you when this was happening because I feel strongly that our country is in a big mess because we hush things up that are uncomfortable. We don’t talk to family members about politics, religion, abortion, women’s health, or race. We just don’t. That stops here. You have been fully aware that I was carrying a baby, and then wasn’t because it was making me very sick, to a point of great personal danger, and you knew that. We never lied to you about this.

The tooth fairy, Santa, sure – those are lies I’ll keep telling you because those myths are, I think, important to childhood. But this? You needed to know now and you’ll need to be reminded when you are older. If it’s not you, it’ll be a friend who will need you there for her and I want you to know the gravity of this.  The emotions that showcased in media are sometimes projected what we’re supposed to feel. That’s bullshit. You feel what you feel, and for me, for now, I feel relieved. And that’s perfectly OK. Some women are really emotionally raw after such an event, understandably so. Some are sad, depressed, angry, pissed, and yet others relieved or content. There are many feelings, many that play off each other from day to day, and they are all valid.

I’m sad that I’ll never have another kid, but your dad and I were talking: We consider it quite a stroke of luck and good fortune that we have you.  Given the miscarriage before and this toxic pregnancy (a term a friend used and it really hits the nail on the head), it’s quite possible that we wouldn’t ever have had the opportunity before or after you. It’s weird to think about if I’m being totally honest.

And oddly, we’ve been a lot closer since this event. Maybe because you’re older? Maybe because I see things differently? Maybe both? Either way, here we are.

After I publicly came out with my abortion story, I had scores of women email me privately to tell me their stories. They aren’t ready to come forward yet and that’s completely normal, fine, acceptable, and their choice, as it should be. Their stories told privately to me gave me more strength than imagined. Many were heartbreaking. Many were similar in that they found relief. Some had miscarriages and elected (like I did a long time ago) to have a doctor get involved. There are many stories – people make choices like this for so many reasons, and it’s not at all what might be portrayed in certain circles.

So I’m putting this here for you, Little. If ever you are faced with such a choice as hyperemesis gravidarum (or worse) and difficulty with carrying a baby can be genetic. I had no idea going in, but I do now. I won’t let you go in with blinders on.

You need to know you are supported. You need to know you are not alone. You need to know that whatever choice a woman makes is hers to make and does not need to be defended to anyone.

I hope when you are an adult and might need to make such a choice, that all your options are safe, legal and on the table so you can make an informed decision that works for you.

I was particularly lucky to live in a state where abortion services are accessible, where there were no picketers screaming at me, calling me horrible things. I had peace, was surrounded by women who were going through a hard decision for a variety of reasons, and found relief. We had to drive a little out of the way to get such services, but they existed and I recognize the great privilege we were afforded by only having to drive 30 minutes for such an event unlike in other parts of the country where women have to jump through more hoops, face greater blow back, drive for hours just for relief.

So with this, Little, you’re likely going to be an only from here on out.

And that’s perfect.

Love,
Mom.

Flashback: Be Prepared

Scene:
Two years ago. Local library. Somerville, MA.

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Oh, Little.

Today, you were a big girl and packed your own bag. A small purse that you now own and typically put juice boxes, snacks and picked roadside flowers in.

Today was not typical.

Today, you packed your own bag. “I got it, Mommy.” My first mistake was not checking your bag before we left for the library reading hour.

Today, you unpacked your bag in front of Max and Trudy – the adults who were there to put on a puppet show – and the 15 parents, kids, and librarians attending the puppet show.

Today, you pulled out a juice box, toy pony, dead flowers and what you proclaimed – loudly – to be your favorite pair of underwear.

Today,  you made the library roar.

I’ll handle the packing from here on out.

Love,

Mom

 

Dear Little: Skool

Kid,

You just used the phrase ‘old skool’ in context, correctly, and impressed a cashier at the comic book shop.

Our parenting work is clearly done. We did a perfect job. There’s nothing else left for us to do.

I mean, sex, drugs, attraction, BFFs falling out, politics, calculus, whatever. You’ll figure it out.

Love,

-Mom

6 Years, 3 Months, 12 Days

I filled up the bathtub and added some bubble bath because it’s traditionally been a big hit.

But not today.

Today is the day you say goodbye to bubble baths.

Weird milestone, I know. I just thought all kids loved bubble baths – but I guess you’re already outgrowing them in favor of fancier shampoo and conditioner.

bubble bath

But, just when I’m sobbing over the quickness of your growing up and started writing this, things took a turn.

You’re now sitting in the empty bathtub with a handful of conditioner – the same amount you would use if your hair was still long but you are actively rocking a cute pixie cut. You won’t rinse the conditioner out because the water is too cold.

It’s too cold because I filled a bathtub for you with hot water, that you drained because “bubble baths are for little kids” and decided to take a shower, like a big kid, with no hot water because we used it all in filling the bathtub. While the water is lukewarm, you’ve decided it’s simply too cold for you to rinse your hair so you’re sobbing in the bathtub.

So, bubble baths are for little kids, ok. But coping skills are not programmed yet, so here we are.

Sigh.

Ah, you’re ready to rinse. I think. Let’s see how this plays out.

Love,
Mom