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Aug 19

I’ve felt this way before

I was sitting this morning, thinking my thoughts, and realizing that I have felt like this before. It’s not precisely the same, but the closest I can come is when you’re eight and a half months pregnant. Not there yet, but on the precipice of everything changing, and being in a new place. Everything is going to be different, in a just a little while, and you both can’t wait for the changes and are a little bit terrified of what it’s going to be like.

I’m ready for her to go to college. I’m ready for this next stage, with just Sam and Julie. Sam moving into the oldest role at home, and Julie monopolizing that “going to school” role. I’m ready for the idea of stepping back the mothering role with Jessie, for letting her take over everything. But I’m also a little wistful about how lovely it’s been, this getting ready stage.

Aug 17

To Jessica – on leaving for college

There are so many things I hope I taught you over the years. So many lessons I meant to make sure you learned. I wonder, looking back, if I did enough. Did I tell you everything I meant to?

In the end, I don’t want to make you a list of helpful advice. You don’t need it. You never did. From the very beginning, you’ve had a unique ability to advocate for yourself, to stand up for what you need, and to do it in a way that makes it clear that you will get what you need. I’m flashing back to tiny Jessie who screamed herself to sleep every night, the baby who decided she was done nursing at eleven months. The girl who was going to go to GSA, who was going to get the Nelson Fellowship, and captain of mock trial. You’ve always known what you needed, and you’ve never stepped back from throwing yourself completely into achieving the goal. What you’ve always needed was what you already have – the ability to think clearly, to step back and give yourself grace, and then to pull it together and get it done.

But what I want you to know – always and without question, is that I simply adore you. I respect you more than anyone else, and am in awe of your kindness, your empathy, your dedication, your humor. There isn’t anything that could ever change how much your dad and I love you. We want you to live your life, to be bold and brave, and make the choices that work best for you. You know what you want, and you know how to achieve it. Even when it seems cloudy and uncertain – know that if you step back, take a breath and give it a minute (or longer), you’ll figure it out.

I want you to try new things, to make bold choices, and to push out of your comfort zone. But know what makes you happy, know what you need, and make sure that you get that. I know that you’ll take care of everyone around you, but remember to take a little time to take care of yourself. Remember that ice cream and naps fixes headaches, a good book should never be more than an arm’s reach away, and that we always, always want you to call us. Remember that life is short, take a minute to put it into perspective and know that you don’t have to make it any harder on yourself than necessary.

I am going to miss you terribly, but I also am so incredibly happy to see you out in the world. Watching you experience the world has always been one of my favorite things. From watching you try solid foods, to going down the big waterslide, taking the commuter rail for the first time, or applying to colleges – I’ve loved every single second of being your mother, and expect to enjoy this next stage just as much.

The only thing that’s bigger than how much I’ll miss you is how much I love you, and how incredibly proud I am of you.

Aug 11

Ever closer

I’ve been thinking of a letter that I should write for Jessie when she goes off to college. And while I will do it, it occurs to me that I need to work through some things first. Because it should be about her, and right now, I keep making it about me. When I think about what I want to tell her, I think about where I was emotionally when she was conceived, how I rebuilt myself while I was carrying her. How giving birth to her was like giving birth to me in some ways.

I was shattered after my miscarriage. It just destroyed everything about me. Everything I believed had failed me. The entire foundation of who I was had crumbled when I suddenly got pregnant, and then lost the babies. Not the getting pregnant part. That was shocking, but such a blessing. I was so grateful, so delighted and thrilled and amazed by the miracle of pregnancy. But losing them? One at a time? The idea that I couldn’t save them – that I had been given this incredibly gift, and lost it because of my own inability to stop it… it was the hardest thing I had ever been thru.

Each of my kids came into my life and brought something different. Sam was my second baby, and he needed me so much. He taught me to advocate. He makes me stronger, because I have to be. He needed me so much, and even though he’s 15 and ready for independence – he still relies on me to validate, to support. His accident divided time for me – and so much of who I am now is because of that experience. Julianna is my child of contentment. She’s perfect – she came into my life when I wasn’t looking to rebuild anything. She’s my reward. Not that she has to be perfect, because she’s complicated and tricky and funny and sweet and I can’t imagine not having her.

But my Jessie? My Jessie is my foundation. I rebuilt myself as her mother. Being her mother impacted every relationship, every choice, everything about my life. And there’s more to me than just being her mom, I’m Sam’s mom, Julie’s mom, Lilli and Sarah’s stepmom, Marc’s wife. I’m a daughter, a friend, a sister. I read and write, I have more to my life than just her.

But there’s no denying that Jessie is my foundation.

Two weeks and two partial weeks left.

Aug 03

Will I always feel like this?

Julie is spending the night at my sister’s house, with her cousin Aria. Which is lovely and fun, and I’m happy she’s out and about, spending time doing something she likes.

BUT – it feels… off. I don’t feel right when one of my kids is not here. I mean, it’s fine, I’m not worried about her, she’s having fun and I’m happy she’s there – but it feels… not right. Like I’m missing someone. It’s low-grade, it’s not debilitating or anything – but I miss her. I wouldn’t want to live like this – without her.

Then it occurred to me that in three full weeks and two partial weeks, I am going to be living like this. Will I adjust to Jessie being gone all the time? Will it be normal for me to only have two kids here? Every night? How does that feel normal?

So, I’m trying to adapt my thought process. Obviously, this will be my new normal. What I’m struggling with is the idea that I’m going to be missing her, every day, all the time, and it’ll be this low-level of desperation and uneasiness for the rest of my life. And it’ll gradually get worse and worse, as they leave. Because they’ll leave. Sam will go, and then Julie – and will I ever be as happy, as content, as I am right now?

How do I do this?

The mantra I’m going with is that it’d feel so much worse if they couldn’t go. If we couldn’t afford for Jessie to go to college, or if she was too sick to go. Thank God she’s able to go to college, that we can afford it, that she’s worked so hard for so long to do this. It’d be worse, if she couldn’t go.

But this sense of… not rightness – this is going to take a long time for me to adjust.

Aug 02

Squares on a calendar

My days with her are whittled down to squares on the calendar. Julie has a calendar she keeps on the wall in the living room, and wherever I sit, I can see it. I haven’t counted them up yet, but I can’t quite help myself from counting the weeks. Three full weeks left. Two partial.

I haven’t written about this because it is so emotional. It’s painful and scary and so wonderful that I’m afraid to breathe too deeply for fear of messing it up. My daughter is going to one of the best colleges in the country, she’s going to have opportunities that she can’t even imagine yet. She’s so beautiful, and empathetic and kind and brilliant, and I’m so proud of her, and incredibly aware of how lucky I am to have her.

Our relationship quite simply saved me. At a time when I was broken beyond belief, when everything I thought I knew was false and nothing seemed stable or real, Marc loved me so endlessly, and gave me Jessica. And she made my life okay. Being her mother, and then Sam’s and then Julie’s mother, gave me an identity and place to anchor myself.

And in three full weeks and two partial ones, that relationship, that foundational relationship that my whole world pivoted on – that’s going to change. It’s fundamental to who I am – being Jessie’s mother, being responsible for her. Not just the nuts and bolts, like food and clothing, but her emotional wellbeing, her character, her ability to self regulate and remember to eat, and to be kind to herself. I was in charge of all of that. Teaching her the skills, stepping further and further back, but knowing that I could swoop in and save her all the time.

That’s going to change. Forget swooping in, I might not even know that she needs me to do it. She’s going to have to save herself. She’s going to be an adult – and I don’t know what that means for me. I know that I love my mother more than anything, and that we transitioned into a healthy mother/daughter relationship between two adults. But right now? With three full weeks and two partial ones left of me being a full time mother to her, before I officially pass the baton to her. it seems so unbelievable to me. Not sad, not scary, not anticipatory – but unimaginable.

It’s not really unimaginable. It’s fascinating – what will college do for Jessie? How will she change, how will she grow when she’s on her own? How will she define herself, her relationships to others? How will her ambitions change, her goals, her philosophies? What will those relationships look like a year from now?

I’m just going to miss her so much. Yes, I’m enormously proud, and so lucky to have had the last 18 years with her. I’m excited about what the future holds for her, for our family as we adjust to being a family of four at home. I’m looking forward to all of that – and I’m clinging to that. Trying desperately not to focus on the fact that in three full weeks and two partial ones, she’ll be living somewhere else.

Jul 21

Five Weeks

I mean, counting down isn’t good for anyone. I know that. It’s like googling a medical condition. Everyone says it’s a bad idea, but I do it anyway. More knowledge is better than less.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

But there are five weeks left until Jessie moves out, and I’m… wordless. I don’t have words. Everything is huge, the pride, the gratitude, and the impending sense that I’m going to be losing daily contact with my first baby and I don’t know what my life looks like without her here every day.

I imagine it. And its lovely. I mean, I’m going to miss her the way I’d miss my right arm, but I still have Sam and Julianna home with me. I have a husband I love, a slightly insane dog, a hamster with psychotic escape tendencies and a fish named Squish. Everything will settle in – she’ll text me, I’ll get busy with the kids, the dog – it’ll be fine.

It’s a new stage, and there’s a part of me that’s looking forward to it. I focus on that. There is still a LOT about my life that’s lovely and exciting and rewarding. But my baby. My little baby girl who I brought home eighteen years, four months and six days ago, the one who’s been at my side ever since.

Five weeks.

May 26

Last Day of High School

I remember her first day of kindergarten, how Sam cried so hard. He was angry that I let her walk away with her class. She’s my first, so I’m always figuring out how to do things with her. I think sometimes we miss that reality – that we’re always a new mom when it comes to the oldest. With Sam and Julie – there’s a sense of “Oh – I remember this.” I’ve survived a tween hiding in their rooms forever. I’ve survived fifth grade math (or at least learned the websites I can check to relearn what I need to know). I’ve handled middle school binders, high school class selection. I can do this.

I’ve never done a high school graduation before.

I know she’s got her cap and gown. I’ve raved over both potential graduation dresses. I know that on a Tuesday night in a few weeks, I’m going to watch her accept her diploma and officially end her childhood. Because that’s what this is. College isn’t full on adulthood – she’ll have training wheels. She’ll have a cafeteria, and someone else handling all the details of paying the electric bill and shoveling out the walkway. Her job will be studying. And making friends, learning who she is as an independent person. But she won’t be a child anymore.

I think I’m ready for this. I think I’m prepared. She pays for her own clothes, her own coffee. She doesn’t run everything by me anymore. Most things, the big things, sure. But she used to tell me everything. She doesn’t need to anymore. She’s suddenly bigger, older. She’s holding down a job, two, soon to be three, with another babysitting job on the side. She’s managing roommate questions, following up on celiac accommodations. Ordering clothes, organizing what she needs for college. She’s outgrown most of what I do. She doesn’t need a wake up in the mornings, or for me to do her laundry. I don’t need to make sure she brushes her teeth or does her homework. I haven’t needed to do any of that for such a long time – but it’s suddenly hitting me that she’s outgrown so much of what we think of as “mothering.”

Our relationship has been changing since the moment she was born. She was always feircely independent, deciding for herself when she’d fall asleep and how, when she’d nurse, when she’d transition to solids and she walked when she was damn good and ready – not at all on my time table. She’s danced that line between being a mini-me and being her own self. She’s everything I wanted her to be. She’s smart and beautiful, kind and empathetic, polite and wickedly sarcastic. She’s maternal and has an ability to know what to say at the right time to make someone laugh when they’re terrified or so scared they can’t see straight. She’s the quintessential big sister, and I’m going to miss her like I’d miss my right hand when she moves away.

May 15

When will I read????

We’ve had fourteen months of staying at home. All the time. I mean, I went grocery shopping, visited my parents once a month or so, but otherwise, that was it. I went WEEKS with nothing on my calendar. And suddenly, it’s over. Jessie’s working three different jobs (soon to add a fourth), finishing up end of year testing and actually going into the school for a few days. Sam’s got orientation and mobility sessions once a week, adding in zoom sessions plus he’s got end of the year testing and Julie’s up to 2x weekly therapy sessions. I’m totally overwhelmed and living by my calendar, convinced I’m double booking myself most of the time.

Did I mention that Sam’s allergic to everything? Not just all the dust, and all the trees and all the grasses. We did a pedi food panel test, and he came back flagged for every.single.thing. Except for, oddly enough, pork and chocolate. And brewers yeast (although since he’s allergic to rice, wheat, barley, corn and oats, there’s nothing to bake). We haven’t added in visits to the allergist, but that’ll get added on this week, I think.

May 04

Mondays

It wasn’t a good day.

I struggle with Julianna’s anxiety. When she gets anxious, she shuts down, withdraws and wants to be alone. And it kills me. It breaks my heart that she’s alone with it, and I want so badly to comfort her and help her and let her know that she’s not alone. I don’t know how to handle her anxiety. I understood Jessie’s temper tantrums that, looking back now, were coming from a place of anxiety. I understood Sam’s anxiety, and his panic attacks. They needed me beside them, telling them that I was there, that I was with them, I was on their side, I would be right there and they weren’t alone. Julie wants me far away when she’s anxious and it hurts and it makes me worry that much more.

Plus there was just a lot of other things going on yesterday. Sam’s finally starting to get services for being visually impaired, but it involves a LOT of talking and discussion and arranging. Jessie needs a heart monitor for two weeks, and that’s probably nothing but it freaks me out anyway. Because the idea that it might not be nothing is terrifying.

It was just a big parenting day – it felt like all of the kids needed a lot of administration and parenting. Jessie and I are navigating new territory, finding ways for me to step back and her to step up – and it’s more complicated because she’s asking to step up on things that most kids her age don’t have to deal with, like getting accommodations for celiac disease and arranging for a heart monitor with two different medical companies. That’s hard, emotionally and administratively. Sam is still finally feeling better, after years of feeling sick, and that’s so amazingly great, but also new and we’re feeling our way into what a healthy Sam is like. What does he want, what does he need? And Julie – she got slapped in the face with MCAS testing next week and completely withdrew. Literally. Went into my room, shut the door, cried, and refused to come out or talk to me for two hours.

It was just one of those days when I felt overwhelmed and inadequate all day – capped off with Marc refusing to allow me to move his tomato plant outside because I couldn’t be trusted to do it delicately enough.

And so it’s Tuesday, and I’m really, really hoping for a better day. I lobbied hard to opt her out of MCAS, and I’ll continue that fight today. I might not be able to – and maybe I shouldn’t. She took the two hours to melt down and panic, but had pulled herself together by mid-afternoon. We even worked out a bribe (lets call it a reward or incentive) of slime when she finishes up the week. I just need to get an emergency 504 in place – I had refused one when offered earlier because there was an opt out offered. Sam’s been up since three, so I sent him back to bed for a while, and Jessie’s hard at work. She’s got another four weeks until high school is over altogether.

Apr 01

Passover 2021

Passover takes on a different meaning when your son is diagnosed with celiac disease just before it starts. It’s not that it’s meaningless, because we had the Seder and it was lovely. But adding in Passover restrictions seems pointless when we’re grappling with a permanent dietary restriction that goes beyond matzoh – which isn’t gluten free.

And so our Passover observance this year was limited to just the Seder on the first night.

I’m trying to keep my head above water, and feeling overwhelmed and on the edge of drowning. Jessie’s getting college decisions, and she’s gotten accepted or waitlisted at half of the colleges she’s applied to – she’s also gotten rejections at some she didn’t expect. Getting waitlisted at Smith was hard, and then rejected soon after by Tufts and Vassar didn’t help. But she did get accepted to her dream college, with a fantastic financial aid package.

I think she’s struggling a little bit with the anticlimatic end of senior year. Plus all of the concerns around eating at college, paying for college (a fantastic financial aid package doesn’t mean full boat), getting ready for college, etc. So that’s hard.

Sam is still not doing great. Overall, better than he was, but he was starting at such a low point. It’s discouraging to both of us that he isn’t magically better. I want magic. We’re meeting with a dietician next Wednesday, and I think that’ll help him feel more empowered and more in control. Mainly, I just want him to feel better – no pain. It doesn’t seem like a big ask, but…

My Julie – TECCA is not going well with her. She hates it, and constantly ends up in this situation where she’s fallen a day or two behind, and then is panicking to catch up. I don’t mind her falling a bit behind, but the panic and anxiety are awful for her. And getting her to understand that the choice to delay doing the work is going to cause the work to build up, and cause more panic and anxiety… it’s a battle. Just a battle, and I hate watching her go through it. We had one melt down earlier, and she seems calmer, more relaxed. I just have convince her that I’m on her side, and not someone to fight.

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