The Apple Has Fallen

Parenting comes with lots of responsibilities.

They can range anywhere from minor (getting them to guitar lessons) to major (trying to teach them right from wrong.)  I homeschool my son, but in a sense, all parents are teachers.  From the moment your child is born, you are teaching them.  If you stop and think about it, it’s pretty scary.  Especially when you consider the fact that some of us aren’t really qualified to teach a dog to heel, let alone teach a child to live!

Regardless of qualifications, here we are.  I’ve been trying hard for the last twelve years or so to raise children that don’t cause people to run and hide in their closets when they see them coming.

I’ve been thinking about all of the similarities between me and my kids, and especially me and my son.

He and I spend a LOT of time together.  Literally almost ALL the time, really.  And it occurred to me that it doesn’t really matter what you try to teach–your children live their lives based on how you live yours.

And I thought just teaching them was scary!

I won’t say my son is exactly like me, because that wouldn’t be true.  He has so many good things that I don’t have.  Some of the things I’ve tried hard to teach him have stuck.  He is almost unbelievably open-minded and accepting.  He has great compassion.  One great aspect of his personality is that he has a tendency to see things in a very black and white way.  He doesn’t let people be wishy-washy.  He has this, “Okay, what’s it going to be?” thing that I can’t really explain.  And yet, he also has the ability to be very diplomatic.

Sometimes, though, I look at him and it’s like looking in a mirror.  It’s not looks I’m talking about–people say he looks like me, but I can see his dad in so many of his features.  He was spared my nose, thank God, and has his dad’s mouth (literally–figuratively it’s mine, believe me.)  But his mannerisms and expressions are so like me.  The little things he comes out with sometimes shock me, not because they are shocking, but because they are exactly something I would say.

In short, I’m a role model.  If that doesn’t alarm you, then nothing does.

While seeing my little expressions on my son’s face is amusing, it makes me hyper-aware of all those faults that I desperately hope don’t become a legacy.  I so much don’t want him to suffer from the same self-esteem issues that I’ve suffered all my life, so I have to watch making negative comments about myself.  My tongue tends to be sharp, and bitterly sarcastic at times, and already I’ve had to call him down for that.  I tend to worry obsessively over things, and agonize over decisions.  It can be crippling.

One of the worst things I see–a corpse floating to the surface of the old gene pool, if you will–is my supernatural ability to hold a grudge.  Oh! How I’ve tried to let this go over the years.  Though some would disagree, I’m sure, to me this is my worst quality.  I sometimes walk purposefully into  a room only to realize that I have no idea why I went in there in the first place, but I can tell you with photographic clarity some mean thing someone said to me in elementary school.  Really.

And I can see my son doing this, as well.  I can see the way he holds on to things that people do or say to him.  Heaven help you if he washes his hands of you, because he will never let it go.  When he’s finished with someone, he’s finished.  Period. I can’t imagine a greater motivation to improve my own life.  I never cared much about myself and how I turned out, but I’d do anything–even change my old hard-headed ways–to make my kids into decent people.

Of all the responsibilities of parenthood, this role model thing is by far the most serious.  Our children absorb everything we do or say.  Others will influence them throughout their lives–peers, teachers, relatives–but never doubt that you are the one.  Take a good look in the mirror–that face you see looking back out at you?  That will be your kid in a few years.

You’d better make sure you like what you see.

 

The Good Samaritan’s Wife

In the Bible (the book of Luke, I think) there is a story about a Jewish man who gets beaten, robbed, and left on the side of the road.  A priest and a Levite (sounds like a joke, right?) walk past him without stopping to help.  A Samaritan, a member of a group of people who weren’t the best of friends with the Jews, stopped and helped him.  That’s the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Love your neighbor.

I wonder if he had a wife?

Today I was out in my soccer-mom van, and my low tire pressure indicator light came on.  I pulled into the fancy digital (and free!) air pump at Sheetz.  I went around three of my tires and fixed them up.  When I got to the fourth, I could NOT get the valve cap off.  I couldn’t do it.

The tire wasn’t flat, so I thought, crap, forget it.  It’s not flat, right?  Right about that time, a truck pulled in the parking spot right in front of me, and a guy got out and stood by his truck looking back towards the store.  I thought, what the heck?

I walked over and asked him if he thought he could get my valve cap off, because I couldn’t.  He said sure.  I’m no weakling, so I knew it was stuck on there pretty good.  It turns out I was right, and he couldn’t get it, either.  It took him approximately 30 seconds to realize that.  He said, “Let me grab a pair of pliers and try it real quick.” Then he added, “Our car is broke down up there on 19.  It’s not a good day for cars, I guess.”

It clicked that I had seen them on my way in, sitting on the side of the road–the truck he and two other guys were in and another car with a white shirt rolled up in the window–the universal symbol for “I’m broke please don’t tow my car!”  Anyway, when we had passed, they were all standing around the car, along with a young woman.

Right as this clicked in my brain, that woman came out of Sheetz and over to the truck they were all in.  She looked around, apparently for the man who was hidden behind my van, then one of the guys in the truck said something.  Her response was, and I’m quoting from memory here, “Jesus Christ!”  My 12-year-old son snapped his head around so quickly I thought he might break his neck.  She looked away, then stood there and fumed until her husband/boyfriend/victim said, “I’m afraid I’m going to mess up your valve stem.” At this point he had maybe been helping us for four minutes.

I told him to forget it, I just wanted to see if maybe I was just weak that morning or something, it wasn’t flat, it was fine, babble babble babble just get away from us before something bad happens between me and your pleasant-faced partner.  He offered more assistance, but I was already heading to the cockpit.  He went over, and the lovely lady of the hour started on him.  I slammed my door and gunned out of there.  My son said, “She’s getting all over him, and now she’s crying!”  Sure enough, I looked and she was having some sort of melodramatic meltdown in Sheetz parking lot in front of everyone, including the other guys in the car, while the Samaritan stood, shoulder’s slumped, and did nothing.

I don’t know what lesson my son learned today, but I know what lesson I learned.  Don’t ask for help.  Our society had finally degenerated to this.  I’ve suspected it for a years, and now all of my fears have been confirmed.  If you’re laying on the road, buddy, you’d be better off to just lay there with your mouth shut until a member of your own family can come rescue you.

How I wish I could have just kept my big mouth shut.  Why did I have to ask for help?  It was just a valve cap.  I’ve always disliked asking for help, anyway, and this just reinforces my beliefs.  If I’m stranded on the side of the road and someone starts to pull off, I’ll pull a gun on them.  I have a cell phone–I’ll either fix it myself or call for someone who I know won’t have to get a divorce for helping me.

So if you see me sitting there, just drive on by.  My cell phone service may be sketchy, but my aim is dead on.

In Sickness and Health…..But Mostly Sickness

A rather rude comment was made about me yesterday.  I was referred to by my nearest and dearest as “the most hateful sick person in the history of the universe.”

Well!

I have strep throat, which I get almost every year.  I think this year’s case has been by far the worst.  Maybe I say that every year.  Maybe it’s like childbirth, and once it’s over you can’t remember what it was like.  All I know is that it really, really sucked this time.  I reached an all time low late yesterday afternoon and volunteered to go to the doctor.  After only three doses of my antibiotics, I feel much better.  My husband has made the comment–numerous times–that if I had gone to the doctor right at the first onset of symptoms, I would have never gotten so miserable.  He also said, “We go through this every year.  Why?  Why can’t you just go?  You know how it’s going to turn out!”

Nobody likes a know-it-all, you know.

Well, I suffered for my cause this year.  I had a roaring fever, aches, pains, and the words “sore throat” don’t even hint at the total carnage that was inside my neck.  I literally did nothing but sip water for two days, and that was mostly to wash the Advil down.  The pain in my throat even caused my ears to ache.  I made the mistake of shining a flashlight in my mouth and looking at my throat–I may never recover from that sight.

After two days of laying on the couch with even my hair hurting, I finally consented to go to the doctor.  Matt loaded me up and hauled me over there.  I think the test for strep must be punishment for waiting so long to go.  They take this giant Q-tip and rub it round and round in the back of your throat.  I didn’t think she’d ever stop.  Then I started coughing, and that just felt wonderful.  I got my meds and came back home.

Matt kept on and on about going to the doctor, and I finally gave him some miserable, hateful answer about how I didn’t run to the doctor every time I sneezed, and now I’d have to pay a bill for that stupid strep test, and I was old enough to do whatever I wanted.  I rounded off my rather hoarse tirade with, “I think you like it when I’m sick because you can boss me around!”  That prompted him to make his original comment.

I have no idea why I don’t want to go the doctor.  I don’t think I’m really afraid.  I know they aren’t going to give me a shot or anything.  I know I’ll feel better afterwards.  To me, though, going to the doctor is admitting defeat.  I’m a tough old bird who doesn’t need help from anyone. I’m the caretaker, not the careneeder–going to the doctor is for sissies.  I have an enormous tolerance for pain.  I’m tough.  I rough.

Apparently, I’m also a trifle testy.

So maybe I hissed if anyone got too close to me, or moved the couch I was on, or walked by too fast and caused a breeze to hit me.  Maybe I answered questions with various rude gestures instead of words.  I felt bad.  Everyone gets a little cranky when they feel bad, right?

Don’t agree with me? Fine.

Come over here and let me give you a kiss.

Mourning in Never-land

Recently, the mother of a special needs child wrote a post that went viral on the Internet.  This post wasn’t triggered by the blog, but rather a follow-up comment by the author.  She remarked that someone had told her she should mourn her daughter and get over it (that’s my paraphrase.)

Now, her daughter didn’t die–she was born with special needs, so to some, the word “mourn” may seem like an odd one.  But when you have a child with special needs, you do mourn.

You do.

To some it may seem like self-pity.  I don’t know–maybe it is.  Some people might be tempted to judge me for saying what I’m going to say, but I’m only telling the truth.  When, as a woman (because it’s much more difficult for a man,) you decide to have a baby, plans start to form in your head.  It’s silly, but you start thinking about what they might do or be, and what they might look like.  Then, you find out it’s a girl.  You start to think about weddings, and grandchildren.

Then at some point, all of that is over.  Forever.

Never, ever think that I compare this to the actual grief of losing a child.  It’s different.  But it’s bad.  It hurts.  And what’s more, the mourning happens over and over as the years go by.

So-called experts talk about the grief process.  They name the steps: denial (Maybe she’s just a little behind.); anger (Why, God? What did we ever do to you? What did this helpless little baby every do?);  bargaining (Whatever you want, God, okay? Kill me, whatever. Okay? OKAY?);  depression (What now? How do I face this? Do I even want to try?);  and acceptance (I’ll get back to you on this one.)  But here’s the thing–the grief process can’t be listed neatly into five little steps.  This also implies that there is an end to grieving, and I don’t think there is.  I don’t think the pain ever really goes away.  It just changes, and hides, and then pops up unexpectedly over the years to hit you again.  And again.  And again.

Almost eleven years ago, there was a little girl who was supposed to be born.  That little girl was going to blaze a trail.  Super smart, independent, and ready for anything.  She would get married some day and give her mommy a brood of grandchildren to fuss over.

That little girl was never born.

Instead, Evelyn was born.  She’s blazing a trail in her own way, and I can’t imagine my life without her.  But there are some things I had to let go of–some things I had to mourn, and that I’m mourning still.

I’ve been through every one of those stages, and more than once.  Even denial, which I’ve always thought I was immune to, has appeared over the years, usually in my obsessive quest for a diagnosis.

Most of my grief is tied in to the things I feel like she’ll miss out on.  All of the nevers.  She’ll never get married.  Never have kids.  Never go to college.  Never have a boyfriend break her heart.  Never, never, never.  I’ve had to let each of those things go, one by one.

Sometimes, that little girl who I thought was going to be born all those years ago haunts me.  She skips up and down the toy aisle at Christmas time.  She’s out running with her brother on the soccer field.  She talks incessantly to me like her brother does.  She gets into shouting matches with him, and sings along to songs on the radio.  She’s worrying about clothes, and starting to talk about boys.  I catch glimpses of her sometimes, but when I turn to look at her, she’s already gone.  I have to let her go again.

So you mourn.  I think as the years go by, I will learn to get over all of that.  Certainly I can “accept” it more now than before.  But I’m a firm believer in what I said–that pain never really goes away.  You learn to live with it, and yes, even accept it.  I think that’s what acceptance really means.  Not that you’re okay with the way things are, but that you realize you can’t change it, and you learn to live with it.

Living with Evelyn is the easy part.  She’s the joy of my life.  She brings something to us that I can’t even explain.  She doesn’t know or care about the things she’s “missing out” on (according to me.)  She gives me a good example of how to live–live for the moment, forget about yesterday, and don’t worry about tomorrow.  Mostly, forget about the things you can’t change.

I’m still working on that one.

 

 

The (not so) Perfect Comeback

Don’t you hate when you can’t think of a comeback to some jerk until long after a confrontation?

Most people who know me would probably imagine that I don’t have any trouble snapping back at someone who snaps at me.  They would be right.  Most of the time, I don’t.  I have my share of flaws, but I’m usually pretty quick-witted.  I can give a snappy answer when it’s called for–and sometimes when it’s not!

But I’ve had my weak moments.

I don’t know why I started thinking about this story all of a sudden, but it’s been on my mind all day.  I guess I’ve just been admiring all the things my daughter can do now, and how far she’s come, and it made me remember a man who told me none of it would ever happen.

Our medical journey with my daughter has been a long one.  I won’t go in to all of that.  The abridged version is that we made several trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and during the last one, we had our first appointment with a developmental pediatrician.  We had never seen one of those before.  I asked the neurologist out there why we had to see him, and she said, “Well, he specializes in development, so maybe he can give you some idea of Evelyn’s level of development and what you might be able to expect in the future.”  I should have been immediately skeptical, but let me give you some insight into my mental and emotional state at that point in time.

I was a wreck.

That was our fifth trip to Minnesota.  My daughter couldn’t walk or talk.  She was around three years old, but she had the cognitive ability of a little baby.  I was running out of options to find out what was wrong.  She had been tested for everything.  No answers.  No diagnosis.  Worst of all, no hope.  I didn’t realize it then, but I guess some tiny part of me was thinking that if someone could name what was wrong with her, maybe there was something that could be done to fix her.  All of that was coming to an end.  In addition to the Mayo trips, I had also spent a total of 31 days in Bethesda, Maryland, at a special therapy center that worked with non-verbal kids to try to train their brains to learn speech.  It was a wonderful thing for lots of people, but, naturally, it didn’t work out for Evelyn.  In short, there really wasn’t anything left for us to do.

So we went to the appointment with the developmental pediatrician.  I’m not going to name him, because in a minute I’m going to call him an asshole, and I don’t want anyone who might know him to find out he’s an asshole–you know, in case they didn’t already know.

I have no idea what the man’s face looked like.  I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.  I don’t think he ever looked me in the eye.  But I will never forget that room, or his stupid gray suit or his stupid maroon tie, or the stupid red leather couch in the office. He went through her chart and asked me a bunch of questions that had been answered eight million times already.  He asked me about the therapy in Bethesda.  Then he did some standard developmental pediatrician tests on my daughter.

He showed her shapes and colors and tried to get her to match them.  She couldn’t.  He gave her a pencil and asked her to write.  She couldn’t.  He watched her crawl, but not walk.  The best test, though, was when he showed her a block and then put it behind a little plastic wall on a table.  The idea was that she would reach around the little wall for the block–this is the concept of object permanence.  Evelyn tried to move the wall to get the block.  He had his hand on it, and wouldn’t move it.  Evelyn looked at me with that little look she has, like she was saying, “Can you believe this asshole?”

No, seriously, she just grinned at me then quit trying for the block.  She didn’t really give a crap about that block, so she stopped trying to get it.  He made another note on his little clipboard and went back to his desk.  He wrote for a few minutes, then gave me his expert opinion.

To paraphrase, he informed me first and foremost that therapies like the one in Bethesda were a waste of money and basically a scam for gullible people.  He also told me that Evelyn was profoundly retarded, and that she probably always would be.  She also would surely never walk.  My one and only contribution to this monologue was to squeak out, “But she’s pulling up to things now,” to which he replied, “Well, she may walk with assistance, but never on her own.”

And that was it.

Now, there are lots of things I should have said.  I should have told him to take a long walk off a short dock; to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine; to screw himself; to take a flying….well, nevermind.  I also should have told him that I didn’t realize developmental pediatricians could predict the future with such startling accuracy.  How could he sit there after fifteen minutes and tell me all of these things about my little girl?  There were lots of things she couldn’t do, but she had come so far, and there were tons of thing she could do.  Against all odds, she had learned to roll over, then sit up, then crawl, and she was pulling up to things.  Yes, it took her much longer than it took most kids, but that didn’t mean she would never do it!  Then I should have stood up, picked up my baby, tossed my head, and marched from the office.

I didn’t.

I didn’t march from that office.  I slouched out.  I skulked, like a beaten dog.  I felt like that.  He had just given voice to all of the worst fears in the deepest, darkest part of my heart.  He had crushed me–crushed the heart and soul right out of me.  I trailed all the way back to the hotel room, got Evelyn a snack, and sat on the bed.  It was a low place.  I was alone–Evelyn and I had flown out by ourselves, and she was already asleep.  I couldn’t tell you if it was raining, snowing, thunder, a tornado, anything.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t even do that.

I pulled myself together after a while, and talked to The Grandmother and Matt on the phone.  I told them the gist of what the DP had said, and we took turns abusing him verbally.  It didn’t really help, but it was nice to call him a bunch of dirty names.

I’ve heard the word “vulnerable,” but in all honesty, it’s not really a word that applies to me very often.  Looking back, I can see that it was appropriate then.  He was literally kicking me while I was down.  Once we got home, life went on, and I was able to start moving past all of the things he said.  Oddly enough, it was Evelyn’s regular neurologist that made me feel better.  Lots of people aren’t crazy about him, because he has a tendency to be very frank, but that’s the very reason I like him.  I admitted to him what the DP had said.  He snorted.  Literally.  He said, “How does he know what Evelyn will be doing in a year from now?  I regret you had to see him–developmental pediatricians are like tits on a boar.”

I swear, he really said that.  It made my day.  As time went on, I wished more than ever that I had told him off, and I even wrote a very strongly worded letter.  I never mailed it.  In a way, I didn’t want to admit to him how badly he’d hurt me.  But I think he did me a favor.  He gave a face to the enemy.  He gave us something to fight against, and, more importantly, something to fight for.

So, Dr. Barberisi? You can kiss my ass.  Oh, and Evelyn can walk now, so it should be pretty easy for you to kiss hers, too.

 

The Book of Yuck

I watch too much television.

I base this statement on the fact that I am constantly annoyed, irritated, amazed (not in a good way) and, most recently, sickened by what I see on tv.  There’s a new show on TLC (part of the Discovery family) called “Extreme Cheapskates,” and, obviously, it’s about people who go to amazing lengths to save money.  Aside from the guy who filched his wife’s anniversary gift out of a Dumpster, the most horrific of these tight wad elite was a mother who—who—-oh Lord—-uses reusable cloths instead of toilet paper. She uses reusable cloths instead of toilet paper.  SHE USES REUSABLE CLOTHS INSTEAD OF TOILET PAPER!!!

I can’t let this go.  I’ve tried to get this out of my mind, but it’s stuck there, like some sort of poisonous insect that just keeps burrowing deeper and deeper.

Now, I consider myself at least a moderate environmentalist.  My biggest contribution to environmental wellbeing is that I am vegan.  I buy organic when I can, recycle, compost, and in short I try to have as many green practices as possible.

But I have to draw the line at wiping my butt on a washcloth.

This vomitous woman has a little shelf where most of us keep our TP, and underneath that is a small waste basket.  The cloths were stacked on the shelf.  They dropped the used ones in the basket, then she dumps them in the washer, “….and I never have to touch them with my bare hands,” she said.

Well, I’m glad she never has to touch them with her bare hands, but God help us, it’s still disgusting.  I am extremely suseptible to smells–more so than usual, I think–and the thought of that basket sitting there full of…..well, you know, and the smell that would come from it, it’s too much. It stinks, even in my imagination.

Here are some more fun facts for you–she said that bacteria couldn’t survive the environment of the washing machine, but I beg to differ.  Unless you have a magic washer that somehow dispenses boiling water, then it is possible for germs to survive.  Wet laundry that gets transferred from the washer to the dryer is ripe with fecal matter–and that’s on our regular clothing and towels.  I always wash my hands after handling laundry.  If I had a basket full of butt cloths, the only solution would be for me to take them into the yard and light them on fire.  She was letting her kids fold the little cloths, and one of the cloths was thoroughly stained, and the little boy said, “Mommy, this one isn’t clean!” and she hurriedly grabbed it from him and said, “It’s fine, it’s just stained.” My head!  Oh! my head!

I’m sorry, Mother Earth, but I love toilet paper.  You can’t ever have enough.

 

I sometimes have little flashes of lucidity, and I realize I am a (not so) borderline germaphobe.  I don’t know what to do about, other than just go with it.  I try to put a positive spin on it, like saying that I probably have the cleanest hands of anyone I know.

But there may be some things you of which you are dreadfully unaware, like the fecal matter in the laundry.  Everyone knows about the telephone and the tv remote control, but here are some other things that require your germ-busting attention:

  • the sugar scoop
  • the bottle of dish soap
  • the milk jug
  • the knobs on the washer and dryer (see fecal matter comment)
  • the dish drainer (soak that baby in bleach!)

Really, the list could potentially go on forever, but I don’t want to infect everyone else with the crazies.

I’m not sure how I got off on this germ tangent, but my original point was my need to stop watching television.  It is only going to cause me more and more stress, apparently, yet I just keep on turning it on.

After I wipe off the remote control.

 

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