Thursday, February 24, 2011

My scariest parenting moment...finally, in print

Sometimes, things happen in parenthood that are just perfect for a blog.

Sometimes, things happen in parenthood that one can not really write about in a blog.

And I'm not talking about "private" stuff. I'm talking about stuff that is just too painful to rehash. Stuff that, when it happens, you're strong and capable and do what you gotta do, but once it's over, you just don't ever want to go There again.

This past summer, something like that happened, and when it was over, my friend immediately said: "Well, there's a perfect blog post!" But it never made it on the blog, because I know Me...I know what my head does...I know the potential for Crazy Shit that can happen up in there. So when it was over, it was done.

But today, this incident was revisited, and it came back, rushing at me, forcing me to finally get it out, write it down, and (hopefully) let it go.

So...the Incident was really, no big deal. Surely, many of you reading this will have similar stories. But this happened to My Kid. And it changed me, just a little bit, forever.


It had been my idea to go ice skating. Ben had shown some interest, and it was the one thing on my Summer To Do List of activities that we had not yet tried. So on the week before the end of summer, we spent the afternoon--Daddy, Mama, and 4-year-old Ben ice skating (or should I say hobbling?).

Ben was pretty good. For a kid who can barely roller blade, he took to the ice rather quickly. At first, he'd just dare a few slides from here to there. By the end of the hour, when we had about 5 minutes left, he decided to go off a little further. I had skated away from him at this point, wanting to see him from afar, wanting to take it in: this little little boy, big grin on his face, brows furrowed in concentration, slip sliding around, almost gracefully.

That's precisely when it happened. I watched the skates slip out suddenly from under him. His body flew up in the air and he landed backwards, head first. As Hubby and I skated over to him, bystanders and skaters and employees rushed over. One mom, I remember, gasped audibly and held her hand over her open, shocked mouth, and uttered a horrified "It was such a loud thump!" when I came over. I remember thinking she was probably one of those moms... But Ben was standing up. He was crying, but he seemed okay. There was no blood. No bump. No evidence.

Within a few minutes, the crying had stopped, and as he sat with his makeshift ice pack on his head, we jokingly took a picture with our cellphone to send to the grandparents. We thought it might be funny to "freak them out a little bit." We came home and Ben asked to watch TV and have some milk and cookies. He seemed fine.

Long story short: about 40 minutes after the hit, he started to cry, almost inconsolably. His tummy hurt. No, his head hurt. No, he thought he was going to throw up. He felt weird. While I called the pediatrician, he started to yawn, rub his eyes, continue to whine. By the time we arrived at the pediatrician's office, less than 10 minutes later, he was throwing up into a Ziploc bag and turning white. By the time we arrived at the ER, less than 8 minutes later, his lips were grey, his eyes were glazed over, and he couldn't tell us his name.

Over the next couple of hours, I watched as my son was strapped onto a table for a brain scan. I watched as he bravely looked away when they put in the IV. I watched as he started to "come back" and begin to question the nurse's skills. By the time the doctor came back with the results that he was okay and that it was "just a concussion," he had started to look and sound like himself again.


Nothing really happened.
Lots of kids have to go to the ER.
Lots of kids bump their heads.
Lots of parents have scary moments with their kids.

But watching my son go from perfectly normal to looking like he was completely drugged and didn't know who he was...this boy who always has something to say, always has an answer to everything, this boy with the full pink pout that suddenly was not even the color of his skin...that will remain with me forever.

And that thought...the one of how it could have, very easily, gone the other way...that's the thought I simply did not want to entertain ever again.

Today, I got a call from his school. He was okay, but he had fallen backward and hit his head on the concrete. When I arrived at the school, I scanned the playground area and recognized his navy blue shirt and royal blue athletic shorts. He was hanging from the monkey bars. I could not have been more relieved. But still, in the car, on the way home, I watched him closely in the rear view mirror. At the first yawn, I panicked: Did he always seem this tired after school? When he said his tummy hurt, I wondered: Does he usually go potty at this time? The memories came rushing back. The fear, the anxiety, the incredible amount of gratitude (at Life, at God, at Luck?) that he was okay.


My son was okay.

**After I was done with this post and was proofing it, I heard Hubby (who was bathing the boys) ask Ben to let him see his eyes. Immediately, I went to the bathroom: What? What is it? Hubby said he thought Ben's eyes looked shadowy, but in the light, it seemed so did Aidan's. "You know it's when you're looking for stuff to find," Hubby explained. Meanwhile, my heart started pumping, the anxiety, the fear...that fear that Something Is Wrong. Here's the worst part of parenting: you just can't protect them.**

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Welcome to the inside of my head

So, after nearly two years, this blog finally looks like Me.

When I started out on this little writing/techie journey, I barely knew what a blog was, much less how to design one. And here I am, li'l ol' technologically disabled me...changing background colors, rearranging fonts, and finally using the header photo I had dreamed up so long ago (thanks Gil, photographer/friend extraordinaire!). And although, thank God, we no longer use baby bottles or pacifiers in this house, and a couple of those shoes have since been handed down,that photo really does capture what this blog started out like for me: the needs and demands of my boys scattered about my "real" life...the one I fought so hard not to lose, the one which, eventually, has adjusted itself to my "other reality"...Glamour Girl and Mama can co-exist after all.

Nothing like a bloggie make-over to perk a girl up...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nothing to prove

It’s pretty exhausting, walking around with a chip on your shoulder, trying to prove people wrong. It can even be pretty tiresome when you’re walking around, trying to prove something to yourself.

But it can also be extremely motivating…like a swift kick in the ass to get you in gear…as in “Oh yeah? Watch this.”

That’s what the last 15 years have been for me, athletically speaking.

Short version: I was the chubby sister, usually the chubby friend, and always the one begging the coach to sit out in phys ed.

Fast forward to my early 20s and a desperate need to get out of my house: I started running. (Well, I started walking and dabbling in a slow painful jog here and there).

When I first started toying with the idea of a 5k, the response was overwhelmingly “3 miles? You sure you can do that?” When I mentioned the possibility of a half-marathon, it turned into laughter and outright mockery.


Short version: I did several 5ks and went on to run two half-marathons (not to mention a couple of sprint-distance adventure races, complete with obstacle courses, mud pits, and mountain biking).

During all of those training runs, when it started to hurt…when I started to wonder if I could keep going…I thought about all of those people, the ones who thought I just couldn’t do it, the ones who said I was not athletic, the ones who--instead of supporting me from the sidelines--placed even more doubt into my already terrified heart.

And I thought about me. I, too, wondered if I could do it. I wondered every race, every mile, every step. More importantly than proving it to all those people, I needed to prove it to myself. Because the truth was that when those people doubted me and I fought back with anger and more mileage, I never admitted that I wasn’t really sure I could do it, either.

There was nothing like crossing the finish line and that feeling of: “Hell yeah.”


I will be running my third half-marathon next week. I am not running this one to prove anything to anyone. This one will be a celebration of the three boys waiting for me at the finish line, and a celebration of Me.

And I gotta tell you: as I logged in my last long training run yesterday, I realized: it’s way harder to put in the work when you’ve got nothing to prove.

When I hit the pavement for mile 1, I was slammed by the pain in my ankles and calves, caused by my insistence (and stupidity) on wearing heels to work for two straight days. I didn't know how I was going to run another eleven. By the time my watch hit the first hour, I was just forcing myself to move forward, to take one step and then another, to just complete the training session. As I struggled, I reached for something to get me through, to motivate inspirational song on my iPod, a vision of myself crossing the finish line next week, some inkling of that desire, that anger, that need to show the world, to show myself that I could do more than I had ever thought possible.

But it didn't come. Instead, the realization hit me: I was no longer That Girl...the one who set out at the start line of her first 5k, more terrified than she'd ever been. After over a decade, I had finally let that insecure, uncoordinated, scared little kid behind. All the people who had doubted me so long ago had either been forcefully removed from my life or had seen me succeed enough times to finally realize that maybe they'd been wrong all along and they should just shut up and cheer goddammit.

As happy as this epiphany made me (I no longer had to do anything I sorta didn't want to just to see if I actually could...I no longer had to log painful hours on the road or the bike just to see if I had the stamina--mentally and physically--to do so...I no longer had to "prove them wrong"), I also felt slightly deflated.


Now I had to finish this damn two and half hour training run out of sheer will.

So now that I've "arrived" in this place in my life, I'm no longer exhausted from walking around with that chip on my shoulder.

Now I'm just exhausted from the damned running.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Roll Call

Someone recently told me that I'm "never present" and my mind is "always on a million things."

Well, duh.

Have you not read my blog profile? I've spent most of my life trying to find a way to drown out the noise in my head. Believe me...I know.

When I'm eating breakfast, I'm either packing 3 lunches or checking my email.
When I'm driving, I'm putting on my make-up or eating.
When I stop at red lights, I check my phone for text messages, clean out my purse, or tweeze my eyebrows.
And when I can't do more than one thing at a time, I'm thinking about the things I will be doing, need to be doing, want to be doing, or should be doing.

Yep. When they take roll call in life, I'm never actually "here."

My initial gut response to this person was to throw my hands up in the air and go: "Well, then, fuck it. Cause, really, I'm kinda tired of working so hard at Me. I'm kinda tired of constantly dealing with my crap, identifying what's not working for me and those around me...and really, if it's not noticeable, if I'm still in the same place I was Then...well, then, fuck it. I give up."

But then...well then...after the initial indignation was gone, I had to face myself, and I had to admit that perhaps being aware of a personal issue does not necessarily equal riddance of said issue. And that realization left me with: "OK. So now what?"

I can't change who I am. I can't change how I'm wired. I will never be Zen. I will never be that happy-go-lucky, easy-going, nothing-bothers-me, I'm-just-chillin person. And I've realized that no matter how many times I tell myself to just relax, to live lighter, well, it seems I'm just not listening. So I have to focus on the action. The behavior.

So I've come up with a little project, a little experiment, if you will.

Rather than beating myself up emotionally, I've been practicing consciously doing whatever it is I'm doing in that exact moment. I'm going to force myself, even if it feels unnatural, even I have to fake it, to literally be thinking about what I'm doing, and stick to doing one thing at a time.

Today, for example, I went on a run. Normally, the iPod starts blaring the minute I take the first step. And I don't stop fiddling with the playlists until I'm done with the run. Recently, I told Hubby that I couldn't run my upcoming half-marathon with my shuffle (which is significantly smaller than my iPod nano but doesn't allow you to control the songs played) because I like to change the songs and playlists according to "my mood." Hubby's reaction: "Good God, so you can't even download 100 songs you like onto a shuffle, run an event, and just enjoy the music that comes on? You even have to control the order in which the songs play?" I stood there, blinking, confused. It had never occurred to me to just go for a run and settle back and listen to whatever was coming through the headphones. Now, not only have I decided I will be running my race with the shuffle and not the ultra-controllable nano, but I ran today with absolutely no music at all. In spite of the fact that I strapped on my music player and popped in my headphones, I decided to try the hour-long run in silence. I focused on my breathing, I paid attention to my posture, I noticed the change in the weather from when I started to when I finished. It was very calming, and, amazingly, I didn't miss my Black Eyed Peas even a little bit.

Yesterday, I let the boys play outside in the front yard and on the street--their absolute favorite thing to do in the world, and something I usually pass on to Daddy. On the rare occasions I have been out there with them, I read a book in between my shouts of "Car!" or do my nails (yes, seriously), or count the minutes until I feel justified in taking them back inside. Yesterday, I put my cell out of reach so the texts didn't tempt me. I laced up my sneakers, and I played with them. I even played with the neighborhood kids. I raced Aidan on scooters, I sat on the floor and drew chalk outlines of the kids, I even tried out Ben's Razor 360 thing-a-majig. And, admittedly, I did not enjoy all of it. Admittedly, I thought a few times about the laundry that was waiting. I thought about the book I could've been reading. And I thought about how, the bottom line is, as much as I love to play boardgames, draw, paint, read, or spend time with my boys, the whole-hanging-out-in-the-front-yard-free-play-thing is not my thing. But it's okay. Because I was with them. And because I was There.

I have no doubt that this is going to be tough. I am sure that on more than one occasion I will find myself multi-tasking and barely focusing on any of the four things I'm trying to accomplish. And I am absolutely positively sure that I will find myself thinking/fretting/obsessing over something else while I'm doing something completely unrelated. But, hey, don't they say it takes 21 days for a behavior to become a habit (or something like that)?

Here's my hope in all this:
The ideal turn-out would be that after a while, I actually start being That Type of Person...the kind of person who doesn't worry (so much) about something until she can actually do something about it...the kind of person who is actually paying attention to the book she's reading to her kid at bedtime instead of planning the packing of her gym bag for the next morning.
But if that doesn't happen, then maybe I'll start being at least a little better at focusing on the really important stuff and eliminating some distractions, and get rid of that nasty habit of uber-multitasking.
And if in the end, Project I Am Here is a total bust, well then, at least I can say I gave it a shot...and obsess over that failure while I text, pack lunch, and re-shape my eyebrows.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

With parenting comes heartbreak

Parenting is filled with joy.

Nothing swells my heart more than when my oldest boy, on his way to his room, makes a quick unsolicited pit stop to kiss me on the arm and declare “I love you, Mama.” And when my littlest tilts his head to look up at me, grins his dimply smile, and states that Mama loves him “all da way to da stars,” my heart certainly grows a few sizes.

But along with the highs, there are the lows.

And I’m realizing there are more lows than I anticipated.


When I was a little girl, I daydreamed about my wedding day: the dress I would wear, the song I would dance, the shade of the flowers in my bouquet (little did I know then that I’d end up having not one, but two dresses, songs, bouquets….! Oh, if only I’d known, I would’ve daydreamed double!). Then, as I got older, I started daydreaming about being a Mommy: the pink bows and skirts, the Barbie dream house, the dolls (little did I know then that the only pink items in the house would be in my own closet, the dream house would continue to be a dream, and the dolls would be army men and action figures).

The point being: I’ve always had preconceived notions of what IT would be like. The IT referring to just about anything of any importance. And the older I get, the more I realize that it is these pre-set expectations, these self-imposed constraints, which cause me great grief on a day-to-day basis, because, as most of us know, IT rarely turns out exactly as you expected it to.

Having been a teacher of small children for a full decade prior to having kids of my own, I had some very definite visions of what IT would be like: school. As my baby slowly became a boy, I started daydreaming again: my son would be the well-rounded kid, the one who the teachers loved, the one who always turned everything in on time, the one who behaved, the one who said “please” and “thank you,” the one whose parents obviously were doing their job.

Yesterday, when picking up my two boys from school, I was told that Ben had had “a really bad day” (this was accompanied with some wide-eyed brow-raising and some whew-like whistling from the teacher) and had earned himself a red card. This red card was not accompanied, luckily, with stories about bullying on the playground…we have come a long way from that. His “yellow and red days” are more about not sitting still, goofing off, insisting that he come down the slide backwards and on his tummy. Immediately after this explanation, the teacher then went on to ask “Oh, and did you hear about Aidan?” (which I had…my usually-angelic-in-school two-year-old decided to whack his classmate on the head with a toy hard enough that a report needed to be signed). I went home yesterday, two adorable and sweaty little boys in tow, feeling dejected and discouraged.

This morning, while dropping them off, I hid my face from the mother of the kid Aidan had whacked, and wondered if she was thinking: “Oh, there’s the mother of THAT kid.”

I assured Ben’s teacher that yes, he had, in fact, gone to the bathroom (TWICE) at home before coming, but for some reason he was currently fixated on going again when he arrived at school, and apologized sheepishly for her having to take him for a third day in a row while I went to work.

I got into my car and silently prayed for a “green day.”

And then I started to cry.

In my daydreams of being a parent, I never imagined feeling embarrassment or shame when dropping them off at school. I never thought I’d worry about what the teachers must think of my kids—or worse—of us.

And therein lies my issue: I worry too damn much about what other people think.

I’m frustrated and stressed because I want it to be like a problem statement: “If this, then this.” I kinda thought that’s what parenting was: IF you teach your kids right from wrong, IF you are consistent and firm, IF you balance the rewards and the consequences, IF you are a good role model, THEN they will…

Will what?

What is it that I would be filling in the blank with here?

…THEN they will not go down the slide backwards on their tummies???????