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Nov 18

The Pledge

Somewhere along the line, Julianna stopped standing for the pledge of allegiance. I’m not sure when, but it probably happened during covid. I don’t know that she did it at Flagg Street. But she doesn’t stand in class for the pledge of allegiance now.

Julie, at Gates Lane, is a different kid in a lot of ways. More independent, more certain about what she wants and how to achieve it. She’s stronger. She’s seen some things, so to speak. And quite honestly, she resents standing to affirm her loyalty to a country that does not, in her opinion, stand for liberty and justice for all. While she believes in God, she’s aware that not everyone does, and also resents the exclusionary aspect of it. Not everyone believes in one country, under God.

So she doesn’t stand. Her homeroom teacher, this year, doesn’t appear to be all that hot and bothered by it, but her substitute yesterday does. The sub made a big deal about it – first yelling at the girls in the back row to stand, and when Julie still didn’t, she slammed her hands down on her desk and demanded that Julie stand up. Julie, who was quietly reading Anne of the Island, rolled her eyes and stood up, making it clear that she was continuing to read her book.

I checked with her teacher today, and verified that she does not, in fact, have to stand. And got assurance that her substitute teacher would be informed of that.

But it points to a larger issue, and it’s one that I’m recognizing more and more. My little Julie isn’t so little anymore. She’s got strongly formed, independent opinions, and is willing to stand up for them. Also – she’s nowhere near as afraid of teachers or other people in authority as she used to be. Julie doesn’t screw around. She’s tough and strong, and while I’d rather she not be rolling her eyes at her teachers, I’m not altogether unhappy that she did. The teacher was wrong – she was trying to intimidate Julie into some sort of performative patriotism, and Julie wasn’t having it.

Oct 11

One month in

It’s more like a month and a week, but being on time has never been a strong point for me.

Julianna bounced into school like a duck to water. It’s a good metaphor, because a duck legit needs water and is happiest there, and truly, that’s what it feels like. She’s in her best place. Even though I’m not completely confident that Gates Lane is the best elementary school in the city, I will say that her teachers are committed and involved, and after the first few weeks, they bumped her up to the upper level math and ELA classes. She’s made friends quickly, loves her art classes, is adjusting beautifully. There was nothing about covid isolation that was positive for her, although I selfishly loved having her home with me. But she loves being at school, and I love how much lighter and more content she seems to be.

Jessie is also thriving. It was a rough month. It just was – moving out was hard. But she did all the right things, and soldiered through the misery and it’s starting to get good for her. She loves her classes, loves her clubs and is starting to feel like it’s home. I miss her, terribly. I mean, it’s this constant ache that I’m slowly adjusting to – but it never goes away. She came home for a night this weekend, and I missed her so much after she went back – it was awful. I know she’s where she belongs, and honestly, I was so focused on making sure that she was okay, I didn’t really have time to miss her. Now that she’s settling in – now I miss her. It’s hard.

Sam – Sam is growing up suddenly so quickly. It’s like he was on hold from the time he was nine, and suddenly went through the past five years in the past five weeks. He’s nine feet tall, wearing real pants, taking the bus, learning braille and in high school. He’s in high school. There’s still so much that I feel like we need to do for him to go to college, and I’m entering into that overdrive stage where I feel like I have to fight all the time to get the aid that he deserves. The problem is that there’s no clear agreement on what he needs. Does he need braille or more independence training? Is TECCA even accessible for him? Has anyone ordered his equipment? I don’t know any of the answers, and nobody else does either. I’m just shouting into the void, hoping for guidance and help. I rarely get it. But sometimes I do, and it’s like patching together an educational plan for him. His grades are great – but that’s apparently part of why it’s so hard to get the services he needs. But I can’t let him fail, because he wants college, and high school grades matter.

Marc is working. And doing security for BI religious services, DM-ing D&D games, going to the gym. He fills his days with obligations and commitments, and I think he’s happy. At least, I don’t know that there’s much he’s able to change. Or wants to – which is really the point. We still try to find time together, and talk four or five times a day – but this is a busy time for us.

I’m starting to see a therapist tomorrow. Not really because I wanted to – but because Sam’s therapist said I was insane to NOT be in therapy. That having a kid who was dealing with all the stuff that Sam is dealing with and not having someone to talk to about it was not okay. And while I’m great at recognizing when my kids need help, and making sure they get it, I’m less effective at seeing when I need help. I’m not at all sure that I would have gotten myself a therapist at all, except that Caitlin, Sam’s therapist, who has been there through everything, said that we need to really push hard over the next few years to get Sam where he need to be, and that I needed to be talking to someone for support as I’m shoving my son out into the world. Then she called around, and sent me the names and numbers of therapists who both take my insurance and have no waiting list.

Sep 22

3 weeks

It’s been three weeks since Jessie moved to Wellesley, and we’re adjusting. Four weeks since Julianna started back in public school, and she’s thriving. Less than a week since Sam started braille, and he’s oddly proficient for a kid who had three months of braille instruction three years ago.

Because the Jewish holidays happened so early this year, Julie’s missed three days of school within the first two weeks. Despite not being there all that often, she still got sick almost immediately. We’ve covid tested her twice so far, and it’s not covid, but it’s a bad cold. And since we’ve all been in covid isolation since March 13, 2021 – we all got sick. She was hard core sick for the better part of a week, and is getting better, but Marc and Sam are right in the throes of it now. Both of them get really gross head colds – and they’re both kind of gross right now. I’m barely starting, and hoping that if I get a good night’s sleep tonight, I’ll be all better tomorrow.

Other than the cold, I have to say that Julie going back to school is an absolute positive. She’s Julie again – she chatters with me in the car, walking me through every part of her day. She’s smiling and laughing more, making friends and feeling comfortable and relaxed. I’ve got my baby back again. Covid isolation was so horrible for her. And two years into it, she’s a different kid than she was. She’s more serious, more thoughtful. More introspective and more… aware of everything. But she hasn’t lost that joy and that sense of fun. I wish I could have given this to her last year – but if I’d had any control over anything, things would be a lot different.

With my Sammy – oh, man, that’s still such a battle. We finally found a braille instructor/TVI, but she can only commit to about half the time that he’s supposed to be getting under his IEP. So I’m still functioning as a woefully inadequate TVI, but now he’s learning braille again, and feeling more empowered and capable. I arranged to have the sessions down at the WPL, only partly because this way I get to go to the library three times a week. But mostly it was about having him out of the house, forming a relationship with a teacher that doesn’t involve being at home. He’s not agoraphobic, at least, I don’t think so. Not in the traditional sense. But he does have some serious anxiety issues, and he also has been at home for a year and a half because of covid, has photophobia so going out in the day time is potentially painful, and is doing online schooling. So even if he isn’t technically agoraphobic, it feels like he is functionally. I jump at any opportunity to get him out of the house and with other people.

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.

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