Dellabee and Me

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Archive for the month “September, 2009”

That’s What Friends…

I am in desperate need of some friends here.  And it’s not just for me, I need to get some friends for my kids too.

Making friends as a grown up is so frigging hard, though.  Just thinking about it makes me sweat.  The tricky part is meeting people, because I am home all the time I have less opportunities to do that.  This results in me throwing myself whoreishly at anyone over 18.  Even the guy who installed the cable was not safe, I practically tied him to the banister with the coax cable just to have someone to talk to who (presumably) doesn’t have ‘accident’s in his underpants.

Compounding the issue is this: while incredibly desperate for friendship, I am also exceptionally insecure.  It takes me a long time to just be myself, and no, I never stop rehashing what I said or the tone I used when I said it.  Being sociable for me inevitably results in a few hours of flogging for things like making that joke about her husband or saying fuck in front her in-laws.  This is why I spend so much time by myself.

It’s not like I have asperger’s or anything (although I think my neighbor does).  I just can’t seem to hit a groove with most people – I interrupt or they interrupt me, I work really hard to keep things moving along while the other person just talktalktalks about herself (and by the way, what is that about? seriously, take a breath and at least pretend to be interested in what I might have done in my life – is that too much to hope for?), or things just stall out.

Unfortunately, the by-product of my social angst is that my son is not exactly suave with other kids.  I know this is my fault because: I did not send him to preschool when he was 3, I didn’t do enough playdates for him, I let him watch too much tv, I was too depressed to model “normal” for him, etc.  When my son was about 2, he did a spot-on impression of the vacuum cleaner.  It morphed into various power tools, and then a “transformer” which involved stopping and an angry face.  Any decent parent would not have encouraged this, but it was really funny so I made him do it for everyone.

Then when he was about 4 I had to pull him aside and say “listen, when you meet someone new, don’t do the robot thing right away because they might think you can’t talk.”  This is because the daycare lady at the gym told me she thought he was autistic, as he had never used words while in her care because he was too busy buzzing and whirring and stomping.  He did this because he thought the other kids would be impressed and like him.

Because we have moved a few times in my son’s life, he has not had the chance to have neighborhood friends.  So now my guilt forces me to leer at ANY child in the neighborhood in an attempt to get my kid someone to play with.  Unfortunately, my neighborhood appears to be full of children who are only seen going to or from the school bus (I refer to this as the children of the corn phenomenon).  So imagine the thrill I felt today when another kid began riding his bike in the street while my son was riding his (with training wheels).  As the boy passed us I asked my son if he knew him.  My son did not respond because he was too busy advertising his age and poor large motor skills by squealing in frustration over the pedaling – it is SUCH work.  The boy circled back by us and as he shot past he looked at me and with a smirk said “I am in 3rd grade…so no, he doesn’t know me.”

I kinda wanted to give the kid the finger.  Or say something like “oh yeah? well maybe your mother is an alcoholic and you and your 3rd grade friends can all just fuck off!”  But alas, I did not.

Clearly I need to refine our approach.  Is it us, or is it them?  I am trying to figure this out, because I’d like to blame the area we moved to as being unfriendly – but that would not allow me to continue to blame myself.

And you know I have to do that.

So, to be continued.

9/11

September 11th, 2001.

I was living in Newberg, OR.  My eventual husband and I had purchased our first home in March of that year. and about 2 weeks before the towers fell I brought him back to NY to meet my family and close friends.  I still recall our return flight, one of the only times I’ve flown on a half-empty plane.  We had an entire row to ourselves, the sky was blue, the flight from Chicago to Portland exceptionally smooth.  I remember stretching out across the seats, smiling at my future husband across the aisle, tucking the blanket around my legs, and falling asleep – secure in the knowledge that our plane would arrive safely at our destination as the sun sleepily arose around the clouds.

That morning we had to work.  My husband had to wake up about 15 minutes before I did, so I was snoozing in a rather gloatful way when the first plane hit.  My husband had been in the living room and was watching the news about this when he saw the second plane hit.  He ran into our bedroom and woke me up, saying “you have got to see this.”  I stumbled out of my bedroom and stared at the images on the screen, the 2 smoking buildings.  I was confused.  “They will show it again,” my husband assured me.  Within seconds the footage of the second plane directly hitting the World Trade Center was on, and again I was puzzled.  How do 2 planes accidentally hit the same building?

I still remember the newscasters at the time saying at first they thought the planes were small, commuter-sized.  I recall expressing my confusion to my husband that morning before he left for work.

“I don’t get it,” I said.  “Why would anyone do that?”  See, my husband knows all the stuff that I don’t, it’s part of our partnership.  When he wants to know something medical, or something Oprah said, he comes to me.  And when I want to know something complicated, like how to pronounce the different types of dinosaurs or why the people in the Middle East can’t just suck it up and shar, well, he is my source of info.

“It’s pretty smart actually,” I remember him saying.  “The world trade center isn’t just the center of American trade, which is how our market runs.  It’s also a symbol of American capitalism.  By doing this, whoever did it is not only going to impact our economy but they are also making a pretty big statement.”  I shit you not, this is what he said, and this was before the towers even fell, before anyone had taken responsibility.  I was just sitting there thinking some air traffic controller had fucked up and sent 2 planes into the same building – see why my husband and I are together?  It’s very yin-yang.

I watched the television as the towers fell while I was safely enjoying my breakfast.  I called my husband and still remember how my voice cracked as I left him a message describing what I saw.  On the drive to work I heard about the Pentagon, and by the time I arrived at my job there was news of another plane that had gone missing while headed toward the west coast.

I worked in a day treatment center for mentally ill teens and because of this we tried to keep the things light and worked hard to keep the kids distracted throughout the day.  At this time my mother had begun her foray into dating after a midlife divorce and I vaguely recalled her saying something about being in New York City on a date a few days prior, so I panicked.  And the phone lines were down because of everyone else in the country panicking like me and trying to call loved ones.  My older brother is in the military and was stationed in New Jersey.  My entire family was in New York state.  I suddenly felt very far away.

It was days before I realized what had actually happened to our country, our way of life, and the people who died.  I assumed there would be many survivors from the collapsed buildings – there were not.  The fear the passengers on the planes must have felt in their final moments haunted me.  The slurry of phone messages sent from people in the towers to their loved ones –  “there’s a fire but I’m ok” – made me nauseated, because we all know they weren’t ok.  Nobody was.

For years I could not go back to 9/11.  Every documentary, movie, article, clip on the internet – I turned away from them all.  The wound was too fresh for me to revisit.  It could have been any of us.  That is a fact.  Had I flown back to visit family a few days later, it could have been me and my beloved on one of those planes.  That is a reality that I honestly do not like to consider all that often.

This 9/11 I feel differently.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it’s my age, or the passing of time, or maybe it’s Obama.  I don’t know.  I am finally ready to look back at that time, and reconsider how life changed for everyone in those minutes.  Right up until the moment of impact the men flying those planes could have turned away.  THAT is what I think about now – how what one person believes can lead to decisions that destroy countries. 

That is what I am choosing to take from 9/11 to pass onto my children.

Chronic Retentive Constipation

Subtitle: My Kid is Full of Shit

Like many parents, we began the whole potty-training process with our firstborn before he turned 2.  We had a potty and let him play with it, sit on it, decorate it with stickers, because this is what it says to do in all the books.  He was not terribly interested but indulged us.  He turned 2 at the start of the summer, so for most of that time I kept him naked from the waist down. (we actually have a family joke related to this, when he was much younger he used to say ‘nudie’ but he said it ‘noonie’ and often after baths he’d run around naked and say ‘Mommy, I noonie.’ Ahhhh, those days…).  So, anyways, the kid was noonie for the summer.

Also, I was exceptionally pregnant that summer with his sister.  Because of this, I was not a hard-core potty trainer.  I was pretty sure if he did get the hang of using the toilet he would quickly forget about it once that baby came home. 

But the noonie thing really worked – he was pee-trained within a month or so of this. I was invigorated, my hopes falsely elevated, and I believed that somehow I had gone from “the mother who didn’t carry hand sanitizer”  to the mother who could potty train her child before age 2.”  Read that and weep, ladies.

The pooping was harder to master.  We tried stickers, food, ‘poop parties.’  I ordered a potty online that he chose.  I bought a Bob the Builder soft seat.  We filled each bathroom (we had 3 at the time) with board books.  I spent more time sitting on the floor of the bathroom reading to the kid than I did reading to him OUTSIDE of the bathroom.

My son was a ‘hide and pooper.’  If he had to go, he’d disappear and we’d find him minutes later hidden somewhere.  So we started dragging him to the toilet when he’d hide – and yes, it was dragging because he liked to hide to do his business and he did not appreciate our interrupting him.  I specifically recall at the time that if he pooped while on the potty he would also spray pee, and this upset him.  His eyes would register pure terror as the poop came out.

After I had his sister, the focus shifted away from toilet training and we worked on adjusting to life as a family of four.  There were few, if any, issues related to my son and the new baby.  Yet, one day I realized that it had been a few days since he had pooped.   Having a newborn and a 2 year old tends to muddle the details, so I started trying to pay more attention.  The kid would go 6,7 days between poops.  I started giving him benefiber chewables.  I had to give him a suppository on more than one occasion.  It was, in a word, gross.

Shortly before his 3rd birthday, we went to the pediatrician to discuss the pooping problem.  I wanted to send him to preschool that fall but couldn’t unless the toilet issue was under control.  The pediatrician suggested miralax, an over-the-counter stool softener that disappears in liquid.  In addition, she also suggested the usual methods: sticker charts, reading to relax him on the toilet, lots of liquids, a high fiber diet.  I can confess now: I had had enough of it.  I was tired of dealing with his crap.  I lost patience.  I did NOT read to him, I did NOT do a stupid sticker chart.  I yelled, threatened, raged.  Sometimes, I cried when he couldn’t see me.  His failure to poop – and the subsequent damage he was causing his body – was MY failure as a mother.

Fast forward to age 5.  For over 2 years, we have given him miralax.  The biggest battle has been getting him to poop on the toilet BEFORE the poop gets in his underpants.  We have consequences for that, rewards for doing it in the toilet first.  We have dealt with poop getting smeared on walls.  There have been many, many battles just around getting him to sit on the toilet.  With the start of school came new pressure to get this under control – I feared the social ramificataions of waltzing around other kids with poop in his underpants.  Our new pediatrician thankfully referred us to a pediatric GI specialist.  I am so, so grateful to this man.

The GI doctor knew just what we were dealing with.  We left his office with a clear, specific plan and a diagnosis: chronic retentive constipation.  It is unclear what causes this, although the assumption is that the child either experiences a painful bowel movement and then works to actively avoid having another one or that the child experiences some sort of emotional issue that results in with-holding the stool.  Lots of mumbo-jumbo that means it could be my fault or not.

It has been a month since our visit with the specialist.  We are using a medication regime, coupled with frequent trips to the toilet and a sticker chart (yay).  I continue to be hopeful and also hard on myself.  My son is making progress.  I am trying.

I recognize that writing this story is a HUGE violation of my son’s privacy, and I expect to apologize for that in the future – but it is far more important to me at this time to let other people know that this happens.  According to all the pediatricians I talked to about this, it is very common – but as usual moms aren’t talking about it.  Probably because they all feel like me, like it is something they did wrong.

It’s not.  I am trying hard to understand that, too.

Back by Popular Demand

babyella 048I wrote this last year and it was published at www.truenorthparenting.com.  It is one of my favorite pieces about motherhood, just thought I’d share it again.

 

 

When I first heard of True North’s theme for this month, Celebrating Motherhood, I felt compelled to write something about my own experience. Having 2 children and being a part of the “mom” club for almost 4 years now, I was certain I had something to share.

But I realize that I am unsure of how to celebrate motherhood. Although I love my kids, I often feel like I am missing out on something other mothers know about. I do not wake up every morning reveling in the minute details of my parenting life. In fact, I often wake up wanting to sleep just a little bit longer. I tiptoe around the house hoping to keep it just me as long as possible, hoping to rediscover that part of myself I knew before I grew a couple of people in my womb.

The thing about motherhood is it is not finite, not measurable, not a “phase.” And that may be what I struggle with — because it is a permanent shift in my reality. This is not something I am dabbling in, like waiting tables or dating seriously disturbed men. This is not a persona I am assuming but instead a new identity.

How can I still be who I was before I had children, if becoming a mother has changed nearly everything about that person? And why am I fighting so hard to keep her around when it is clear that she isn’t even here anymore?

I have never been great at good-byes. I grieved for weeks when I traded a stuffed horse to a neighbor girl, even though the smurf I got in return was a far better deal. I hate to see the old me go, not just the me who was 40 pounds lighter with fewer stretch marks and no life insurance, but the me who could hold conversations with strangers about world issues, the me who decided at 27 to get a Master’s degree in a full time program while also working full time.

If that me is gone, who is this in her place? This cranky woman who gets a shower every other day and is burdened with the hair to show it. This lonely gal who is so afraid of meeting other moms because they might not like her, or she might say the wrong thing and offend someone, or she might see her mothering mistakes magnified in the eyes of those who limit television and only feed their offspring organic food from local farms. This confused lady who feels conflicting emotions about her role all the time.

Maybe that is why I am struggling to “celebrate motherhood,” because in doing so I am also celebrating the end of all that I knew to be true about myself and the world around me. Becoming a mother meant I was willing to submerge myself in the cold, unfamiliar waters of putting myself second to meet all the needs of someone else – and the risks involved in growing a human are great. I let go of all my comfortable knowledge about how things should be, and CHOSE to be responsible for a baby (now 2 babies) with no way of knowing the outcome. More often then not I totally have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, and not having rules to follow or parameters around me makes me feel vulnerable and, yes, incompetent. It is this incompetence that leads to my ambivalence, and my longing for my old life. Because then I was only responsible for me and I was able to clearly measure how well I was doing at living my life, and there was so much less at stake if I failed.

Perhaps that is what should be celebrated then? Not motherhood itself, but the courage it takes to throw off the towel of your old self and jump face first into that crazy abyss where there are no guides, where the rewards are small and the risks great, where fear often supersedes joy – but that joy is better than anything I knew in my child-free days before I could add “mother” to my resume.

For me, motherhood is not a rainbow-filled day of discovery and Zen-like contentment. Motherhood is getting up in the middle of the night for the 5th time because my little boy has an earache and the heating pad keeps shutting itself off, and I am tired and frustrated with the crying and feeling powerless because it is 4am on a Sunday and there is nothing else I can do to make him feel better, but I keep trying and keep getting up hour after hour. The old me would keep sleeping. Motherhood is saying “no” and listening to crying and whining even though it would be so much easier and quieter to say yes. Motherhood is listening to the same joke for 20 minutes and laughing at the punch line each time because I hate to see his little face fall in disappointment. Motherhood is looking at this body in disgust while also marveling at its ability to reproduce and lactate and hold a clingy 20-pounder for hours on end.

Motherhood is my life now. And it is terrifying and desperate and exciting and dull. And I understand right now as I write this that I will never be the old me again, and I am okay with that. The old me did not know my children, or the way our hearts are intertwined like the roots of a tree. The old me did not see the chubby cheeks under those bright blue eyes smiling up at the new mommy me. The old me did not feel those kicks and rolls from within that were but a small sign of the amount of activity to come. The old me could not know and live with the fear of something, anything, happening to one of my babies, but the new me knows this fear and accepts it as a part of the reality of motherhood.

I do not know if all mothers feel the way I do. But I do know that we all face the same struggles, decisions, fears, and losses. We all give up some part of who we are to make room for our kids in our lives. We do this because it is the heart of motherhood, not a conscious choice but a shift in what we thought was important to make room for something bigger than ourselves. This willingness, this sacrifice, is what we can and should celebrate.

Although it was my choice, my children have defined me as a mother. Without them I would not be who I am today. A woman who loves her kids and tries to do her best. A chick who knows she is not perfect and accepts that she is going to make mistakes. A gal who gets frustrated and burned out with the daily grind of parenting a toddler and a preschooler, yet still laughs at her little boy’s stories and her baby’s temper. A mother with a full heart.

We All Fall Down

Subtitle: How Facebook Altered My Worldview

I remember when I was in elementary school how important small things were: what color chair you sat in in the cafeteria, who brought their lunch and who bought, who was older or younger, who had been held back once (or maybe twice).  I thought if a kid went to the resource room that meant he was tragically stupid.  I thought the library was the BEST room in the whole school.  New kids were scrutinized by name first (Jimmy LOVE??? ha ha ha), then appearance.  And always, ALWAYS, which kid was going to either give you things like candy or stickers was very important.

These are the things I thought about as my oldest child began kindergarten. 

And after he was gone, and the younger child was engaged in an age-appropriate mentally stimulating activity (twirling her hair while staring at Blue’s Clues and sucking her thumb), I turned toward my third child – my laptop.  Reviewed the latest on Facebook.  And had the realization that despite what I thought separated us in school, most of the people I know on Facebook are very similar to me.  I mean, some are religious and have other specific details that belong only to them, but those details were no longer dividing points.  How the hell did that happen?

I know that I have Facebook friends who are older or younger than I am, who have more or less money than I do, more or less education.  It no longer seems to matter – suddenly, what we have in common unites us in a way I hadn’t thought possible.  Most of my Facebook friends are parents.  Almost all of us are kind of into our kids a little bit too much, but in that we also have similar dreams and fears about our kids.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re status updates are annoying or you never communicate with me personally then you will soon be the victim of a friends sweep.  It’s great to see how everyone is doing, but refer to yourself as Mommy on a regular basis or blather on about your pregnancy nausea in every update and BAM, I gotta let you go.  Facebook is fluid.  Trap me in your drama and I am suddenly back in high school wondering who said what about me and why – and really, who wants to be THERE again?

If you have avoided Facebook so far, I suggest you check it out.  You just might see what I have come to believe – we all aren’t that different after all.

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