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May 26

When there are no words

I’m feeling this sense of disgust and rapidly moving into apathy. My kids aren’t traumatized by the school shooting, because it’s normal for them. And I can’t figure out if that’s healthy or not. Because would I rather them be terrified? Or accepting? These are kids who grew up knowing that people don’t care if they get sick, they won’t wear a mask or get vaccinated to keep them safe, they don’t trust society, and why would they? We wonder why anxiety and depression numbers are so high, but of course they are.

I wonder, simply as a thought exercise, what this generation of kids is going to know about human beings. What America is going to mean to them. If I’m feeling disillusioned and enraged and disgusted, and I grew up feeling patriotic and safe, will they feel… anything? How do you connect with a country where this happens? How do you go through the past few years of telling them that they need to be afraid of getting sick, nobody is being careful except for us, and we can’t trust anyone to not be sick, and then expect them to feel like they’re a part of a greater society? How do you get used to the idea that you might be gunned down in the middle of science class and nobody really cares? At least not enough, not enough to change anything. God forbid we lose the right to bear arms.

I’m without words at this point. I’m trying so hard to raise healthy kids, ones who aren’t riddled with depression and anxiety, and I’m all alone in this. The greater society – my village, if you will – doesn’t care about my kids. They won’t keep them safe, and they won’t sacrifice to make it better for them. My kids, all kids, are on their own. And they know that. That’s why Julie is very matter of fact about the school shooting in Texas. “Why would I be worried, Mom? These things happen all the time, they’ve been happening my whole life.” She’s not wrong – and given that she’s already such a bundle of anxiety and stress, the last thing I want to do is add to it. Maybe it’s the same as getting in a car – we know we could be in a terrible accident, but most of the time, we’re fine. We go places in the car all the time. Going to school is mostly the same thing for them.

Maybe all this angst around school shootings is for us – for them, this is normal. This is life in America in 2022. We, as parents, are terrified and upset and raging, but nobody actually does anything. The laws haven’t changed, we don’t do anything, and eventually, it’ll settle back down, and we’ll forget. We won’t always have it front and center in our minds. But for our kids? This is just another day.

And I really don’t know if that isn’t better than feeling disgusted and enraged. Because nothing is changing.

May 12

Spring 2022

We’re finally here. Jessie is home from her first year at Wellesley, Sam is moving into his first summer as a working boy and Julianna is wrapping up her elementary school career. The air is soft and warm, the trees are all dressed and ready for summer and I’m adjusting to this new place in my life.

I don’t have small kids anymore. I’m a mom of teenagers, really. Even though my stepdaughters are in their twenties and my youngest just turned 12, I feel like this middle place is where I am. My kids aren’t adults, not yet, not really. My youngest isn’t technically a teen, but close enough to it that I’m soaking up all the mothering I can still do with her.

Julie is such an odd combination of both very young and far too mature for her age. She still likes her stuffed animals and being put to bed every night, but she’s on her phone and kisses me goodnight and then stays awake for another hour or two. She’s on the bridge between the two, and while I know that this stage is fleeting, I find myself wishing she could stay there a little bit longer, with one foot in childhood and one foot in the next stage.

Sam is edging closer to independence. Small steps that don’t seem all that significant, until it’s actually happening. He manages his own meds now, for example. Not entirely, I still fill his med dispensers with the pills, but he takes them without reminders or fanfare. He’s on meds for everything, anxiety, migraines, allergies and mast cells, so it’s a 3x daily proposition, to be taking his own meds. He’s got reminders and just… does it. He does his own zoom meetings, is starting (very reluctantly) to check his email and keep track of his calendar. It’s both reassuring and disconcerting to see him stepping into this stage.

May 03

Status Updates

We’re a week away from the last day of classes for Jessie and with one year of mothering a college student under my belt – I feel… okay. It was a rough year in a lot of ways, but it was also a really, really good year. She learned a lot about independence and self sufficiency, taking control of her own happiness, figuring out what she wanted and how to get it. It was not always easy – it was never easy. The homesickness never really went away, she just got used to it. I adjusted to life with an adult daughter. Learned to not offer advice, but to listen to her vent and know that my role is to encourage her, validate her, and know with absolute certainty that she’s got this. Because she does.

I feel like this was also a year with a lot of changes for Sam and Julie as well. Sam is finishing up his freshman year, and finally getting all of the services he needs in place. Only to realize that we’re running into another year, and another round of trying to figure out who will provide those services next year. It’s going to be a battle. Every.single.year. And as I’m typing this, I know it’s going to be a battle all the time for Sam – to get the accomodations he needs, the support he needs, the skills… But we’re getting there. Slowly, slowly, but it’s happening. Thank God he’s doing so well academically. Thank God he’s doing so well physically. The spring allergies are doing a number on him, but his overall health is so much better now that he’s on the migraine meds. It’s still a process, adjusting meds, adding new ones, taking some away… but overall, I think we’re on the right path.

Julianna is starting prep for her bat mitzvah. And middle school. She just turned 12 the other day, and I’m slowly starting to come around to the realization that I no longer have any little kids. I mean, I knew that. I don’t have any babies, any toddlers, preschoolers, and pretty soon, I won’t have any elementary school aged kids. I have teenagers, young adults, even.

I’m both wistful and excited about the changes. I love watching Julie grow into herself. I love her empathy, her snark, her sense of humor and her intelligence. I love watching her create and grow and be who she’s supposed to be.

Apr 27

My Julianna Ruth

Every day, I see you. You are so beautiful, so smart and kind. I’m watching you grow into a woman, every day. You’re almost taller than I am and I constantly have to remind myself that you are nowhere near as grown up as you look. You’re still only 12. You’re already 12.

You are my last baby. Forever, you will be my baby. It’s easier for me to let the others grow up, I think. I still have you. Every milestone is not only yours, but also the last time I’ll have that. This is the last year I won’t have a child younger than a teenager. This is the last year of elementary school. Not just for you. But for me too.

I love watching you grow into yourself. Exploring different aspects of your personality, different ideas about who you’ll be or what you’ll enjoy. I watch you when you aren’t paying attention, when you’re walking to the car from school, and I’m never not shocked at how fast it happened. You went from being a tiny little baby, to a bouncy toddler, to a preschooler with very definite opinions about everything, to a kindergartener ready to face the world.

Your childhood was truncated by covid – everything halted for you on a March afternoon, two years ago. And I watched you struggle, and regroup and rebuild. Your confidence and ability to do hard things makes me inordinately proud of you.

More than all of this – I just straight up adore you. I find you fascinating and comforting and lovely. You’re one of my very favorite people and spending time with you is always something I want to do.

I love you so much – and I’m so grateful to be your mother. Watching you grow from this tiny beautiful baby into this almost-woman with huge eyes and gorgeous hair is one of the best parts of my life.

Apr 12

Spring Updates – 2022

Marc got a company car a few weeks ago, and it’s delightful. I assume, because I’ve somehow never actually gotten into the car. He uses it for work, pretty much exclusively, because if we go anywhere as a family, we go in my car. But this means we also have his old car, and we’re sort of hanging onto it, in hopes that Jessie is going to get her license and start driving it. Jessie isn’t super motivated, because she’s on campus, but I think that’s the long-term plan for this summer and next year. She’s got a fellowship this summer, in addition to working at the JCC, so her being able to drive herself would be helpful.

Julianna got accepted to the Hanover Academy at Bancroft yesterday afternoon. It’s based on test scores and is academically advanced, with a focus on arts. I’m really, really happy she’s going to be going there, I don’t entirely love her elementary school. She’s made some great friends, and connected with some of her teachers in ways that I don’t think she ever did at Flagg, but I don’t love it. And I didn’t love Sullivan for Jessie. Jessie was in a separate academy, but from everything I saw at Sullivan, it wasn’t great. Too big. Hanover is a smaller academy, more personal attention, more art classes, etc. Definitely the right move for her. She’s starting her bat mitzvah training this summer, so there’s a whole lot of new things coming up for her.

Sam’s got his IEP meeting this week – and this week is a blur of different meetings with various team members. It’s complicated, and his path has been so convoluted. Now we’re dealing with the fact that he’s got serious spelling deficiencies that have been brushed aside for years, and only really coming to light now that he’s learning braille and quadratic equations. The quadratic equations don’t really highlight the spelling – but they do highlight the importance of him learning braille because of the gaps in his field of vision. We’re getting closer to figuring out how to deal with his cyclic vomiting syndrome, and experimenting with meds to get the right dosage. He’s SO much better – and what I’m realizing is that the anxiety was really triggered by the uncertainty around not being able to predict when or where he’d be throwing up. Feeling awful 98% of the time will make you less likely to feel safe out in the world.
My days are a blur of academics and meetings and stress lately, but I feel like we’re on the right path to health (physical and mental) and academic success.

Feb 13

20 years

I remember the way he looked when we first met. I remember everything about our first date.

I remember his face when I told him I was pregnant. How he told me he loved me and I thought he was crazy. I remember the chocolate ice cream we were eating when he first told me he wanted to marry me. I remember when he told me that we would try again, right away, after we lost the twins. How lost I was when he wasn’t with me that first year.

I remember when Jessie was born, how tiny she looked in his arms. The way he’d swaddle her so carefully, taking her from my arms after I nursed her and then tricking her into falling asleep. I remember telling him when I was pregnant with Sam, and how he kept repeating “it’s a boy, it’s a boy” after he was born. How Sam would cry and cry and Marc didn’t care at all. He was, and is, Sam’s first hero. I remember when I found out I was pregnant with Julianna, how we didn’t tell anyone for that first few days, like it was this incredible secret that we had together. He put her to sleep every night and shared breakfast with her. She was Daddy’s girl from the start.

There are other, harder, memories. The accident and the aftermath. Everything about that time in our lives was hard, but he was right there, all the time. A lot of couples break up when you go through something like that – but trauma brought us closer. Not closer – because we were already so much of a unit. But the strength of that unit was enough.

We’ve sent three girls off to college, gotten one kid through some massive trauma on every level possible – physical, emotional, illness and injury. We’ve survived covid quarantine, multiple job losses, five or six cars, seven apartments, two dogs, six fish and one wiggly hamster. Everything about my life is more than I ever thought possible, and I’m never not grateful for him. Everything I love starts with him.

Happy 20th anniversary. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 brings.

Feb 10

None of us know what we’re doing

Or at least, I know I have no idea.

There’s a woman I know, not well, but we’ve been casual aquaintances for several years. She’s been to our house a few times, I’ve given her kids rides a few times, but we don’t really know each other well. Every time I see her, she tells me that Marc and I are fantastic parents, our kids are wonderful, brilliant, kind, everything is successful. I’m so calm and so peaceful, and such a good parent.

I’ve tried telling her that it’s not true. That parenting is hard, it’s impossible, really. We have no idea what we’re doing, almost all the time. The fact that our kids appear to be perfect belies the reality that nobody is perfect.

Sam has abdominal migraines. And an anxiety disorder, and severe allergies, a traumatic brain injury and he’s blind. I don’t have the foggiest idea what I’m doing most of the time, when it comes to figuring out if the vomiting is coming from the migraines, the allergies, or the anxiety. Really. I don’t know. Ever. I guess, and I think I’m right about 75% of the time, but I could be completely wrong.

Today is one such example. There are a lot of moving pieces that are suddenly falling into place for him, things I’ve been trying to get into place for years. And in the space of a month, this kid went from an incredibly unscheduled laid back situation to one in which he’s got stuff going on almost every day, and often several things piggy backing on top of each other.

Is that why he’s vomiting? Maybe. The vomiting does seem to coincide with activities – but he’s got a lot of activities, and fear around throwing up and not being able to run to the bathroom right outside his bedroom could be contributing to it. Is that anxiety? Or anxiety because of the abdominal migraines?

Really, I don’t know.

I never know. I look back at when Jessie was younger, because she’s much closer to officially “launched” and can see things I did right. But mostly, I see things I did wrong. I wish I had insisted on wheat bread, even though I hate it. I wasn’t firm on bedtimes and never made them sleep in their own beds. The house is always cluttered, I never matched socks, and there were many nights when I put them to bed by promising ice cream for breakfast.

We never know. Because in the end, parenting is just another relationship. And while there’s clearly more responsibility on one side than the other, it’s also about learning how to get along with someone you love more than anything. How to provide structure and love and still acknowledge autonomy and independence. How to make them know they aren’t responsible for your feelings, but they are responsible for their actions. We’re all just hoping that we’re doing the right thing. And never actually knowing if we are.

Jan 31

Turning 48

My birthday was last week. And mostly – I ignored it. I ignored it because it scares me, a little bit, to be getting older. I’m not at all sure how I feel about it, so I’m pretending it’s not real. I don’t FEEL older. But there’s no way to deny that 48 is really close to 50. And 50 – well, that’s old.

I mean, it’s not OLD. I’ll be 50 with a child who isn’t yet in high school. I’m still young if I’ve got a kid too young for high school, right?

But I should be embracing my age. I should be feeling good about this – not everyone gets 50 years. Not everyone gets what I have, a good, healthy marriage. Five healthy kids, who are all thriving. A scruffy dog who barks too much. I love my life.

I’ve thought about life goals, resolutions. I used to make birthday resolutions. When did I stop doing that? Was it Sam’s accident? I think somewhere along the line I started thinking setting goals was too much, survival was taking all that I had. And it’s hard, now, to think of personal goals I want to make. Everything comes back to kids – I want to continue supporting Jessie into adulthood, providing the scaffolding she needs, and gradually stepping back more and more, letting the scaffolding go because she doesn’t need it anymore. I want to start treating Sam as an adult, pushing and nudging and getting him to see himself as capable of doing it on his own. To make his own goals, to work towards what he wants. I want to continue to build my relationship with Julie as a stand alone thing – to be there for every last second of her childhood. To soak up all that I can, because I don’t have that much more time with her. I don’t have that much more time as a parent of children at home.

What do I want? Outside of parenting, outside of being a better wife, a more dedicated pet owner (because I really do need to get her groomed). What do I want, for me?

I guess that should be my resolution. To try and figure out who I am, outside of these definitions. The problem is that my obligations, as a parent, still seem so… huge. So big and so important, it’s hard to know where that ends and where I begin. So much of my identity is tied up in parenting. And it grows and changes, I am not the mom of babies, I’m not the mom of a zillion little kids hanging out at the Ecotarium anymore. But the mom of a college student, an elementary school student, the mom of a disabled high school freshman who needs to fight for every accomodation – that takes up a lot of space. So much space, I’m not sure there’s room for much else.

Parenting is such a guge part of my identity. I’ve been very purposeful about that. I did this intentionally. And I’m sure, as they all continue to grow and need me less, I’ll find space for me again. But we aren’t there yet. Sam still needs a lot. Julie is still a kid. And while Jessie is super close to an adult, she’s still learning and figuring it out. I’m okay with where I am. More than that, I want to be where I am. I don’t want to miss a moment of what I have left with them.

Jan 13

We all have covid

Julie and Marc are the only one we have test results for, but I expect to get Sam and Jessie’s today or tomorrow, and I’m on the phone arranging my test now.

We’re okay. Julie’s mostly through the worst of it now, and feels basically okay. It’s hard to figure out how to count quarantine days, because everyone has a different way of doing it (and 22 months into this thing, it seems weird that we don’t have any clear directions). According to the Board of Health, you start counting (at Day 0) on the first day of symptoms, and then quarantine until Day 6. I think Julie is on Day 5 (started last Saturday), Sam is on Day 3, Jessie is on Day 1, Marc is on Day 1, and I’m on Day 0. Which means I quarantine through Tuesday. Julie’s technically good to go tomorrow, Sam is good for Monday, Jessie and Marc on Tuesday and I’m free on Wednesday. After that, as long as your symptoms are improving, and you are wearing a good mask, you can grocery shop, go to school, the library, etc.

There’s really nothing to like about this. I don’t feel great – I mean, I don’t feel tremendously ill either. But I’m coughing and quarantining and it’s frustrating. There’s this overwhelming worry – because I’ve spent close to two years hearing about how fatal this is, watching my mother deal with long-haul covid, and it’s scary. But so far, we’re riding through it. It’s like a really bad cold and the hard part is that we all have it all at once.

Jan 11

Overwhelmed

I’m feeling especially stressed and overwhelmed right now. We’re coming down to the end of Sam’s semester and I’m looking at a biology test that looks awful to me. I did not thrive in high school biology. And because I’m the one translating all this to him because he can’t see it, if I don’t know the answer, I assume that he doesn’t either. We’re moving towards getting him independent and on his own, and I’d love to not feel responsible for his grades, but we aren’t there yet.

Julie is sick. She was exposed to covid and tested negative last week, but started showing symptoms last Saturday. We’re still waiting for covid test results from yesterday’s test, and hoping like hell that nobody else starts showing any symptoms. Jessie is working with toddlers, and terrified of getting sick.

Sam is throwing up. Again. I feel like Sisyphus, constantly pushing the rock up the mountain, thinking I’ve got it, and then it rolls back down and I have to start all over again. He’s been sick since mid-November, and I don’t know why. He’s been on two antibiotics, and maybe is starting another cold again – but it’s constant sore throat, stuffiness, and vomiting. I’m frustrated and helpless and afraid I’m going to get on the zoom appt and just start sobbing because there are no answers ever, and I can’t figure out how to get him healthy.

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