Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘lean on me’ Category

Some days, I just want to scream.

Most days, I want to scream. But some days, that want becomes a need.

Today was one of those days: the “want” was born out of last weekend, when I spent far more time driving around, chasing down various food or recipe ingredients for my daughter’s wacky diet and expensive palate than I would have liked. I have a paper due in my Globalization in Education class, and I had imagined completing it over the weekend and being done with it.

Even after four or five years of getting my plans squashed into the dust without a moment’s notice, my imagination continues to be a healthy optimist.

After driving around most of the South Bay on Friday for one thing or another, I could have told my daughter I was done on Saturday. She is rarely selfish, even though she has every justification to be so, and even more rarely unappreciative of what it takes to care for her. But…cooking, the ideas for recipes, the planning, the research, the entire process of it–that’s what makes her happy. It’s what has always made her happy: she was in the kitchen inventing recipes by the time she was three. She couldn’t read yet, but wouldn’t be able to, not really, for several years, but it didn’t matter, and I never made it matter. I opened the cupboards and we talked about ingredients: flour and sugar, spices, sauces, acids, oils, She asked questions I usually didn’t even know the answers to, because I had honestly never thought about why chocolate chip cookies flattened if you left them in the oven too long or made them too large. I had never considered why shortening was better then butter in pie crusts. If there is one place I follow the rules, it is in the kitchen.

I love food, but I’m not exactly picky. I don’t eat bugs, things with heads, or live things. Otherwise, if I’m hungry, I will at least try it. In fact, I don’t even have to be hungry. It just has to include chocolate of some sort, frosting of any kind, or salt.

But she was. And so I let her figure things out. Yes, her process made a mess of the kitchen frequently, and her recipes were often inedible for one reason or another. But she delighted in everything she made, and she learned from everything she made. I was still making things the way I had always made them, and along came this five year old who started to tell me how to make them better….I was thrilled. I had fallen in love with her father in part because he made me cookies when we were just flirting and bought me Rice Krispie treats from the food trucks on College Avenue and made me stew for one of our early dates. The way to my heart has always been through my stomach, and here was my daughter, wanting to take over in the kitchen.

If I had never loved her before then–which was certainly not the case, but if I hadn’t–I would have fallen in love with her then. I’d happily clean up after her for the rest of my life if I never had to set foot in the kitchen again.

Of course, she was five, her interest waxed and waned, so I did, in fact, step foot into the kitchen repeatedly for many years.

And then she started to get sick.

The inner chef in her went to work: she broke down everything we ate and replaced ingredients. I may not have been the greatest chef, but I’d always ensured we ate fairly healthy–little to no junk food, or junk food made out of kale, juice without added sugar, dessert was not a staple, little to no fast food. We ate homemade dinners most nights during the week. We’d also been gluten and dairy free by that point, due to intolerances for all of us. But Autumn was determined to figure out the cause of her stomach pains, bloating and severe constipation and diarrhea.

When nothing worked, and she only continued to be in more pain and her health declined, she turned away from food. She felt it had betrayed her. She also felt like a failure.

That feeling didn’t get any better when I took her to Seattle Children’s Hospital and they diagnosed her with an eating disorder without so much as listening to our story.

She did have an eating disorder. She and I were happy to admit that. But it wasn’t because she thought she was fat or ugly. She was, in fact, 85 pounds and hated her body for betraying her. She wanted to eat, and she did eat, as much as she could, but it hurt, and some days she would lie on the floor and scream after eating.

She and I did the best we could with little information and absolutely no medical assistance.

She put on weight in SCH, because they wouldn’t let her move, and they shoved food down her stomach 3 times a day. She cried after every meal, sometimes screamed. They didn’t care. She wanted to scream after every meal; some days, she told me, the want became a need, and I would hold her in my arms while she would scream into my shirt or a pillow. They had told her if she kept screaming, they would move her to a ward where I wasn’t allowed to go. So she screamed in silence.

After Seattle Children’s, Autumn went back to the kitchen. She was determined she would beat whatever was going on, and the hospital had convinced her it was all in her head. That conviction would lurk beneath everything she did and said and thought and felt until the day she was diagnosed with Lyme. But she never left the kitchen. Cooking became all she had. When she couldn’t eat, she cooked for me. She would often cook for her brother, but he wasn’t fond of her attempts to get him to eat more vegetables and less meat.

Her delight is plain on her face when she is talking about food or a recipe or modifications to something that didn’t work. She talks food, dreams food, breathes food. She has had to drag in chairs to sit on while she cooks, or more recently, laid on the floor with her feet up to try and reduce the inflammation while waiting for something to boil. But while she cannot control what her body is doing from one day to the next, she can control her recipes: in the kitchen, she forgets, for a little while, about the truth of her life.

So, when she is having a good day, and she wants to find rare gluten free ingredients to create something she has a taste for, I will drive her to the ends of the earth.

I forget, for a little while, about the truth of her life.

And mine.

I do not deny I was meant to be a mother. Motherhood was another piece to the puzzle of me. But being a caretaker? A nurse? That’s a whole different level of maternal skill. Not all mothers can be nurses, and not all nurses can be mothers. I fully planned on being emotionally available to my children for the rest of my life. I just thought that, at some point, I wouldn’t have to be so very physically, mentally and emotionally available to them.

Some weeks are harder then others. The problem with being a mom, and a caretaker, is that much of the time, even if we have a partner, we have to scream in silence. Not out of fear that we will be taken from our children. But out of fear that if we start, we will not stop.

Today, I woke up wanting to scream. By tonight, after a clinic appointment went from twenty minutes to two hours because the home health nurse kinked the picc line yesterday, after my daughter’s babesia-induced migraine caused her to be both whiny, dramatic and demanding, after the dog got it up in his butt that running around the apartment barking like a lunatic was a great idea, after I went into my daughter’s bathroom–which I usually try not to do but it was unavoidable tonight–after I thought we were “done” for the night so I settled down to watch an online concert…..only to have the picc line jam again during an infusion and the dog being an ass and there being no chocolate in the apartment…..

The want to scream became a need.

I fixed my daughter’s picc line and restarted the infusion. I did 85 situps and 110 crunches and 48 pushups. I took the dog outside to run off his looniness. And I tilted my head back towards the stars and breathed.

It wasn’t screaming. But I was tired from the pushups, which was exactly the point, and the air was cool against my cheeks. My dog looked like an idiot horse amusing himself with his own tail, and the night was calm.

The need to scream settled back into a low humming want in the back of my mind.

Tomorrow I will be able to sleep in a little later, and I have no classes. I can finish my paper and take care of my daughter and even clean her bathroom without puking. Probably.

Maybe tomorrow will be a day I won’t need to scream.

Read Full Post »

Last summer, I blogged about my sweet children driving me insane.  We spend a lot of time together, and a year ago, I didn’t even have work to separate us.

I remember that feeling of, “OMG CAN I READ TWO PAGES OF MY BOOK WITHOUT YOU NEEDING SOMETHING?”  But I also remember taking deep breaths and, for the most part, keeping my swearing only to myself because I knew someday it would change.

Someday, they would have lives.

That day has arrived.

This summer, my son is teaching himself Latin, in addition to continuing his own Japanese IMG_7939language studies.  He spends a lot of time translating Japanese poems and Latin books he finds online.  Starting in a week, he’s working at the UW a couple days a week helping Japanese students.  He’s heavily involved in BloodBourne and Dark Souls , and he’s also watching a lot of Japanese anime, with and without the captions, as part of his Japanese self-studies.  He speaks a lot of Japanese to me, and I either reply in stilted German or bad Spanish.  Not that I know what he’s saying.  But then he doesn’t know what I’m saying, either, so we usually end up laughing.

He walks about 20 miles a week, and he comes out of karate rolling on laughter about inside jokes that he happily tells me, and sometimes I even laugh, but I’m removed from it all.  We used to walk together, and he would tell me all his story ideas and goals for the future.

He used to cry if I left the dojo before his practice was over.

IMG_7953Meanwhile, my daughter has discovered a social life and social media.  She texts her friend travelling in Italy and takes solo bike rides around town. She makes music videos on an app called Music.ally, which is pronounced musically, not Music Ally, OMG.  The music videos are complete with outfit changes, scene changes, sound and video mixing, and sometimes, the dogs’ participations (not necessarily willingly).  I’m horrible at memorizing lyrics. I tend to make up my own.  My daughter remembers everything after hearing it once, and she wants to “help” me learn the real words. But it’s rapid fire, and I am left behind, like I was for years when I would have sworn it was “Amber rain” and not “I’m all right.”

She goes into her room and talks to her friends or stays up until 1 am reading or makes music videos or creates amazing animals out of clay while listening to Rachel Patten, who is her most favorite singer ever.

She still tells me everything she and her friends do together, or what they texted or said and shows me her videos and theirs.  She talks to me about her books in depth and lets me read them and asks me questions that are echoes of questions I have asked her about books down through the years.

Bu she closes her bedroom door when she goes into her room to do anything.

This summer, I am find myself longing for still moment when we can all just sit in the same room for more than 30 minutes.  I find myself wanting to hang out with them and listen to their silly jokes about sex and “out of the mouths of babes” reactions to news, politics, life.

They still annoy me with their lack of understanding for how to put toilet paper on the toilet paper roll or take the garbage bag out of the garbag can before it is so full, it literally explodes when I try to take it out.  They still need me to buy food for them, apparnently, because several independent expeditions I have sent them on have resulted in a lot of not-what-I-asked-for. And they still need me to be there for them when they need me, and tell them everything is going to be OK when they don’t think it is.

They don’t like it when I’m gone too much in one day or too many times in one week.  They miss me when I take a weekend.  They talk to me all the time, and we spend a lot of time together, still, especially given that they are 16 and almost-13.

But.

Last summer, I was still parenting children.

This summer, I would say I am more of a mentor–much loved, I know this– to two amazing people.

And, I hesitate to say this because of all the “DON’T BE YOUR CHILDRENS’ FRIEND” articles out there, but…they are my friends.  Young friends, still.  I still need my own friends, and always will. I still get to make them do things and I have no problem calling them on their stuff.

But…I like them.  As people, as kids…the toilet paper and garbage bag issues aside….I like them.

 

I will be honored if, someday, they choose to call me their friend in return.

Read Full Post »

My son has always been an “I can handle it myself” kinda kid.  From the early days, if he could get himself a snack he would do so.  He was dressing himself as soon as he was able.  He wanted to do his homework on his own from the start, and he did not want help memorizing his spelling words or geograpy.  He gritted his teeth when I taught him how to ride a bike–it took a few times for him to admit he kinda needed me at the start.

It’s a great quality to have, this independence and self-reliance, and I have always supported and encouraged it myself or by making sure he participated in organizations that did the same, such as attending Montessori for preschool and kindergarten.

Still, I often felt like I was missing out on some of the “mommy” stuff I always accepted–and looked forward to–as coming along with having kids.

“I can do it, Mommy,” he always said.

“I know you can,” was my standard reply.  “But there’s nothing wrong with asking for help every now and then.”

The last time I was able to help him with school issues, without seriously damaging his relationship with me, was in 4th grade, when he was being asked to learn the “New” Long Division, which wanted you to divide by starting from the right and going left instead of starting at the left and moving right.  He and I looked at it over and over and over….we went on YouTube and watched videos of this insane process, talked to other parents, who were having just as much trouble….Finally, I taught him the “normal” way to do long division and, when he got it in under a minute and said, “This actually makes sense! Why the hell are they teaching us this other way?” (I allowed the obscenity; it was used in context and I’d been using it plenty myself that night), I wrote a note to his teacher explaining the New Math was against our religion.

His teacher, a lovely lady who knew me well enough to know that she wasn’t going to win this fight anyway, just laughed when she got my note.

But that year was probably the last year my son even allowed me to see his homework, much less advocate for him.

I have learned, through conversations my son and I have had since his father and I divorced, that for the last five years, there was so much tension and animosity going on between me and his dad, my son just stopped asking for help.  He never knew when it would trigger something, either one of his dad’s moods or what seemed to him neverending anger from me, and he also felt like he was adding to the weight I carried: his dad was not happy.  My son knew that, he knew I was trying to help, even if I wasn’t doing a good job of it, and I had him and his sister to take care of, too.

He just dug in his heels and built up that bone-deep independence even more, telling himself, whenever an issue arose, “You can handle this yourself.”

He barely passed his Advanced Algebra course in 7th grade because of this, and he managed to pull off a D in Advanced Geometry by watching YouTube videos.

The mixture of pride and heartbreak that rose in me when he admitted this was a bittersweet tidalwave.

I had failed him, undoubtedly.  And yet….he had found his own way out.

“Thank you,” I said, the only words I could think of to say. “But I’m stronger now.  Let me help you.  When you need it.”

“It’s OK, Mom,” he replied.  “I’m OK.”

And I was resigned to accepting that, while I had somehow managed to be blessed with this child who pulled his own weight in a crisis, I would also never get the chance to let him lean on me as he had allowed me to lean on him.

But as I’m learning, I don’t really know what will happen.

My son has a knee condition with a long Latin name which I forgot a long time ago. Basically, his kneecaps are not growing in pace with the muscles and bones in his legs, and sometimes his knees will slip out of track.  A couple years of Physical Therapy and orthopedic shoes have helped, but there’s not anything permanent we can do until he stops growing. He manages it now, with patience and regular exercise and body awareness.  But running is a huge trigger.

In January, he started P.E., and the curriculum requires running the mile once a week. The second week (“I can do it, Mom; let me handle it”), he was in so much pain he could barely make it to my truck three blocks from school. He finally agreed to go see his Physical Therapist so we could get a note releasing him from the mile run,

His regular PT was already booked, and I could see, as his appontment progressed, that whatever the interim PT was saying to him, it wasn’t good.  At the end of the appointment, she came out with a cheery smile to talk to me “about his treatment.”

On the way to PT, my son and I had discussed the situation, and we agreed he didn’t need to get back into regular treatment.  He had been taking four mile long walks around the neighborhood for the last year without any problems, and he was fully able to get through a karate workout without any problems.  He just needed a note to get out of the mile run.

“So, we should probably schedule two sessions a week for about six months, is what I’m thinking,” said the cheerful PT.  “His hamstrings are tight and his hips are tight and …..” She droned on.

I spared a glance at my son, who was glowering in the dark way only half-grown men can glower. “Hang on, ” I said to her.  To him, “Go outside.  I’ll handle this.”

“Mom–”

“Out,” I said, handing him the keys to the truck.  Then I turned back to the cheerful PT and gave her a smile of my own.

Fifteen minutes later, my son returned.

“Excellent, all righty then, Liam, it was great to meet you,” said Cheerful.  “I’ll see you in six weeks?”

Outside, my son turned to me, “Geez, Mom. You should negotiate hostage situations for the cops.  I left with two appointments a week for six months.  I come back and I have one appointment in six months?”

“They just need to be able to say without a doubt you are under their care.”

“Yeah, I get it, but…geez, Mom.  You didn’t get mad.  When did you get so calm?”

I used to be calm.  I was never the most patient person, but when I became a mother, I felt settled, calm.  Long days would pass and, while I won’t deny I didn’t get stircrazy, I wallowed in the time I spent with him watching trucks rattle down our street or birds at the bird feeders.  I loved lying on the couch and watching him roll his cars over the carpet, where I’d created hills out of pillows. We took walks on the beach and talked about nothing and everything.  When he got mad, I never felt the need to get mad back.

Then his sister was born, and his dad wasn’t happy, and I felt like I was a hostage in my own home, in my own life. I lost my calm, and my impatience came back: the sooner I got through the day, the sooner I could go to sleep and wake up, hopefully start over.  Every day had the possibility to be a new day, a better day.  Soon I was steamrolling through our days together, my days with my husband, my friendships, anger the tide that drove me, waiting for the day when things would be…different.

It wasn’t even about having or not having the courage to leave my children’s father.  It was about me, believing I could fix it, believing I could find my way out of the mess I was only half responsible for, without looking around to see who might be able to help me. “I can do it, Mom,” I used to say to my own mother, long ago.  “I can do it on my own.”

Now I smiled.  I put an arm around my son’s broad back and gave him as much of a hug as an almost-15 year old will allow out in public.  “That’s what I’m here for,” I said.  It was all I needed to say.

“Yeah,” he said.  “OK, then.”

Read Full Post »

Today I woke up feeling overwhelmed.  It usually follows a night of dreams fraught with all the stuff I haven’t done or finished or even started yet.  I rarely remember such dreams other than a tangle of dark shadows and frustrated emotions.  I don’t really want to remember the specifics.  It’s enough to wake up feeling overwhelmed.

Seeing as no one else is awake, I jump in to tackle some of my “undones,” hoping to resolve the mess of anxiety roiling in my gut. As I start working on a client’s blog article, my son trails in, tears already on his cheeks because he was so tired last night he and his dad didn’t play the game he’d wanted to play.  My first reaction is to snarl in frustration: I’m not going to get anything done at this rate. But I shove that nasty part away from me, pull him to me so he’s snuggled up against my side (at 11, I wonder how much longer he’ll be willing to lean on me like this) and we talk about why he woke up ready to doom the day.

Genetics?  Environment, growing up in a house where Mom wakes up overwhelmed and, in the past, didn’t handle it so well? It doesn’t matter.  What matters is I focus on the weight of him, the sound of his breathing, his constant 11-year old fidgeting.He gets into the open notes on the laptop in my lap and we talk DNA testing methods.  Apparently comforted, he wanders off to find his dad and see if some of their aborted plans from last night can be resurrected this morning.

Before I can dive back into my work, my daughter flies in on a few thousand sentences and half of a song.  The definition of a morning person, she rarely wakes up on a tide of anxiety or distraught emotions.  Those come later in the day, usually when she stops moving long enough to think about all the things she wants, longs for, dreams of, can’t have. But in the morning…she wakes up as if the day started awhile

 ago and the rest of us are slow to catch-up.

She wants to go to a park. She wants breakfast. She wants to watch TV. Did I notice the sun is out? She wants to know the plan for the day. She doesn’t want to do anything. She wants to play with the dogs. Can she eat the last donut in the box or will her brother get mad?

I stare at my notes, the blank page for my article. I think about the garden that needs weeding, the bookshelves that need moving, the family room that I’ve started priming for paint, the grocery shopping I need to do, the ribs I need to get cooking, the 100 pages of my novel I need to print so I can ready the package for Interested Agent #3….

My heart beats faster and my chest constricts.  It’s not even nine a.m.

My daughter is whirling around the house, dashing from her room to the kitchen, chasing the dogs, singing a song…the sun is shining. She is full of life and zest and…I breathe, focus on the sound of her voice, the memory of my son leaning into my side.

Life could end tomorrow. Would it be any better a life if all my “jobs” were closed out, completed?

I shut my laptop and breathe.

Read Full Post »